Friday, May 28, 2010

Peanutty Noodles

I’m pretty sure that this dish was my first exposure to noodles and vegetables in a spicy peanut sauce. It certainly was one of the first dishes I learned to cook with some confidence. (It was in the same magazine issue as the Spaghetti Pie.) We loved it and it quickly became something I kept in the back of my mind as an item that could fill in our weekly menu on a regular basis. Unfortunately, all too often I would be missing an ingredient or two and, too hungry to wait to remedy that, we would end up with a quick dinner at a fast food joint. “Having Peanutty Noodles for dinner,” soon became a euphemism for bailing out of kitchen duties and guiltily grabbing something cheap, starchy and fatty.

I am now much more vigilant against the fast food fall-back and, while we still joke about whether we’re going to actually eat the noodles and vegetables in their spicy peanut sauce as planned, I’ve rarely dropped the ball on this one in recent years. It is a relatively simple dish, although the sauce may seem to have a lot of ingredients. The sauce, noodles and bell peppers and snow peas (pea pods) are all cooked separately, then tossed together with ribbons of carrot. It can be served hot (which I prefer) or at room temperature.

I’ve pared down the recipe from its original crowd-pleasing proportions, and made it spicier and more garlicky. I’ve tried just about every color of bell pepper (anything will work, but red, yellow or orange are sweeter and prettier) and resorted to frozen snow peas (or even sugar snap peas) when they were out of season. I’ve used linguine and fettuccine (I can’t remember if I’ve ever tried spaghetti) and, while I think any long noodle would work, I prefer the wider fettuccine.

I’ve tried plenty of other versions of noodles with peanut sauce, including some with chicken or shrimp, but I keep going back to this one. The sweet and spicy peanut-buttery sauce stays creamy rather than clotted and sticky (although the leftovers will have a dryer and sort of chunky sauce that is still very good). We like it pretty spicy, but you could add less of the chile garlic sauce if you want (or more if you dare!) I suppose I could add other things to it, but, to be honest, I’m a little afraid of screwing it up. I’d hate to make something unsatisfactory that would send us out for fast food again.

Our 2010 CSA deliveries start on Tuesday! The salad days begin again soon!!!

Peanutty Noodles
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine

8 ounces uncooked fettuccine or linguine
2 tablespoons canola, peanut or vegetable oil, divided
1 tablespoon peeled fresh ginger, grated or finely minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
¼ cup peanut butter
¼ cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 ½ tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoons chili garlic sauce (or to taste)
1 cup red bell pepper, cut into 2-3-inch long strips
1 heaping cup snow peas, trimmed and cut into about 2-inch pieces
1 carrot, peeled and shaved lengthwise into ribbons with a vegetable peeler

1. Cook the fettuccine in boiling salted water until al dente (fully cooked, but still a bit firm). Drain and set aside.

2. While the noodles are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and sauté 30 seconds. Add chicken broth, peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar and chili garlic sauce. Cook and stir until smooth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer about 10 minutes. Keep warm.

3. Return the noodle-cooking pot to medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add bell peppers and snow peas and sauté about 8 minutes or until tender-crisp and just beginning to brown.

4. Reduce the heat to low and add the cooked noodles, finished sauce and carrot ribbons. Toss to combine. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield 3-4 servings

Other recipes like this one: Pasta with Cauliflower and Cashew Sauce

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