We were on vacation in the Outer Banks this summer when we ducked into Upside, a restaurant in Corolla, which, although clearly not the place whose employees ordinarily might jump up with glee and clap when a family with three small kids comes waltzing in, smiled and made room for us all the same. They had a special on the menu that night, a sesame noodle salad with some sort of scallops on top, and ever since we came back home in July I’ve been trying to recreate them (just the noodles–I could never recreate those scallops).Here’s the problem, though. These noodles–any sesame noodles, I think, because I’ve been trying them all–are, while incredible, not for everyone. My darling husband (you know him as David), holds a bit of an icy place in his heart when it comes to cold noodles. He just doesn’t appreciate–nay, understand!–the concept. And when I, the primary cook of our family, sets a plate of this stuff down in front of him at 6 p.m. on a Wednesday night–a sweltering, humid, miserable kind of hot evening when you can actually feel the heat inside the house despite the air conditioning blasting–the beauty of the dish is just not appreciated the way it should.
And yet. I am not upset that I will be the only one eating all the leftovers this week.I wanted to share this recipe with you (there’s another one I tried from the New York Times that I might post one day soon, but I think I might like this one better. It’s more…peanuty. Even though peanuty isn’t really a word and I totally made it one) because it’s the kind of meal I think you can adapt for the meat-eaters of the family as well as the vegetarians, so long as they don’t mind pasta that’s served lukewarm to cold, unlike my darling misguided husband (though he wants you to know that he didn’t say one negative word. He also wants you to know that he swears he didn’t make a secret run to the local BBQ shop later on while running errands after the kids’ bedtime.). I cooked some shrimp in sesame oil and a splash of soy sauce for the family dinner, but since I have settled quite happily back in vegetarian land myself, topped mine with some seasoned tofu I’d picked up at the grocery store. The noodles don’t mind. They’re just happy to be on your plate.
- 3/4 lb. (1 box) dried rice noodles (found in the Thai/international section of grocery store)
- 2 Tbs. toasted sesame oil, plus a splash
- 2 Tbs. tahini (in my grocery store, it’s found with the nut butters in the natural section)
- 1 Tbs. creamy unsalted peanut butter
- 3 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce
- 2 Tbs. rice vinegar
- 1 Tbs. honey
- 1 Tbs. finely grated ginger
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Sriracha (optional)
- 2 small cucumbers, thinly sliced
- 1/2 c. salted peanuts, chopped
- 1/4 c. chopped herbs, like cilantro and basil, for garnish
- sesame seeds (toasted or black), for garnish
Cook the noodles according to the package directions, then rinse well with cold water. Drain, then drizzle with a splash of sesame oil to keep them from sticking.
Meanwhile, whisk the tahini and peanut butter in the bottom of a small bowl, then whisk in soy sauce, rice vinegar, remaining 2 tablespoons of sesame oil, honey, ginger, garlic and Sriracha (if using) until smooth.
Toss the sauce with the cold noodles.
Place a nest of dressed noodles on a plate, then top with cucumbers, peanuts, herbs and sesame seeds to taste.*
If you want to add a protein: seafood eaters can add cooked shrimp that have been cooled (I sautéed ours in 2 Tbs. of sesame oil on medium-high heat until pink, then added 2-3 Tbs. of soy sauce along with pepper). Vegetarians might like cubes of seasoned tofu on top (I used sesame ginger for mine).
*I highly recommend throwing in more veggies if you like: I’ve used sliced peppers, snow peas (cook them first by boiling for 2 minutes, then soaking in an ice bath), and green onion in addition to the cucumber.