I’ve just spent four days cooking for fifty friendly and appreciative women from the Center for Spiritual Living of San Jose who gathered at the Saratoga Springs Retreat Center. Among all the things I cooked, this rice noodle salad with a spicy peanut dressing rated as one of their favorites. While clearly Asian, it’s hard to say whether this recipe is more Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesian or Thai–perhaps it’s a bit of each. Although white rice noodles are an Asian staple, I’m suggesting you upgrade nutritionally by using brown rice spaghetti, which you’ll find at Trader Joe’s, and very likely at your local supermarket as well. Serve this as a side dish, or make it a light entree by adding a few ounces of seasoned tofu or tempeh, or whatever protein you fancy. Make plenty, because these noodles are so much fun to eat, I’m betting that even your skeptical non-vegetarian friends are going to want seconds (full recipe after the jump).
BROWN RICE NOODLES WITH SPICY PEANUT DRESSING
8 ounces brown rice spaghetti
1 medium carrot, julienned
a handful of snow peas or sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 small head of broccoli cut into small flowerets
2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
3-4 sprigs of cilantro (optional)
1. In a good sized pot, bring ten cups of lightly-salted water to boil. Dip the veggies into the boiling water for 30 seconds. You want them to be very crisp, so quickly snatch them out and drain, or chill them briefly in an ice water bath.
2. Return the water to a boil. Break the brown rice spaghetti in half and plunge it into the boiling water. Stir to make sure it doesn’t stick together. Cook 15-16 minutes or until al dente. Rice pasta can be more delicate than wheat pasta, so you need to watch carefully and be sure not to overcook it.
3. When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well again. Toss with a little canola oil if you will not be using the pasta immediately.
4. While the pasta is cooking, gather your ingredients together and make the dressing (see below).
5. To serve: toss the pasta with about 1/2 cup dressing, add half the veggies and toss again.
6. Divide into individual plates or serving bowls and drizzle a bit more dressing over the top. Garnish with the remaining veggies and the green onions, a scattering of chopped peanuts, and sprigs of cilantro, if you wish. Eat immediately!
For the dressing:
This recipe allows you lots of leeway to adjust seasonings to your taste. Start with the smallest quantities I suggest, and gradually add more, tasting after each addition. You are looking to achieve a sparkling balance of salt, sweet, tart and spicy. For the sweetener, I used barley malt syrup when making this at home. Maple syrup and honey, for example, are much sweeter, so you would probably want to use less of those. Only add the hot sauce if you are sure all your guests can tolerate heat. You can always leave it out, and serve it on the side for those who are feeling picante. One of the great things about cooking at home is that you can make things taste exactly the way you like them! (Yields 1 1/2 cups of dressing).
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
1-1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 -inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic
2-3 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
2-3 tablespoons rice syrup, barley malt syrup or maple syrup or sweetener of choice (or to taste)
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice, or to taste
a few drops of tabasco or similar hot sauce, or to taste (optional)
1/2 cup water
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup canola oil, approximately
1. Combine everything except the canola oil in a blender and blend until everything is completely puréed.
2. Gradually drizzle in the canola oil until you have a creamy dressing of the consistency you prefer. Stop and adjust seasoning, briefly blend again.
You will probably have more dressing than you need for this recipe, but it is also good as a dip for veggies, and will keep for up to two weeks in the fridge.