Cold emerald peanut-sesame noodles (4-6 servings)

emerald.jpg

Today's recipe comes from Jack Bishop's A Year in the Vegetarian Kitchen, a wonderful resource for people who want to learn more about seasonal cooking. Most of his recipes are more on the gourmet side, but some (including this one) are more casual and simple. Basically, it's just a riff on classic cold sesame noodles but with spinach thrown in. It's a great dish to make in the summertime, since the only cooking required is boiling the noodles. He suggests topping the noodles with shallow-fried scallions, but that seemed like too much work, so I just sprinkled them (a bit heavily -- oops!) with toasted sesame seeds.

You will need:

  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1 lb dried Chinese (or other Asian-style) noodles
  • toasted sesame oil
  • 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1/3 cup smooth natural peanut butter
  • 1-2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger (I used closer to 2 because Bryan and I both love it)
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup hot water
  • 3 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar (I actually used apple cider vinegar because that's all I had)

Steps:

  1. Bring a stockpot full of water to a boil; add the salt. Cook the noodles until al dente, according to package directions. Drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water to cool them off (or fan them, which works surprisingly well!); transfer the noodles to a large bowl and toss with a tablespoon or two of sesame oil to keep them from sticking together.
  2. Place the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse, scraping down the sides as necessary, until the sauce is smooth and flecked with tiny bits of spinach throughout.
  3. Pour the sauce over the noodles and toss to coat. Serve topped with toasted sesame seeds, crushed peanuts, or fried sliced scallions.

The noodles weren't quite as "emerald" as I'd hoped, but they still looked more interesting than the traditional tan-colored version. To me, one of the most impressive parts about this recipe was that the spinach blended in with the other flavors incredibly well. I was expecting the sauce to taste more "vegetable-y," which I wouldn't have minded, but Bryan probably would have. Instead, the peanut butter and ginger stood out while the spinach added nutrition and texture but stayed in the background.

One tip: When you process the sauce, make sure the spinach is at the bottom of the bowl of the food processor. I put it on top of the liquids, and it was tough to get the leaves to blend in without mashing them down with a wooden spoon!

I liked the noodles pretty cool, but Bryan preferred them room-temperature. They tasted just as great the next day as leftovers!