"Things won are done,
Joy's Soul lies in the Doing."
- William Shakespeare

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Perfect Summer Salad

I have a wee confession to make.  I suffer from performance anxiety.  The food-related kind.  Specifically, the bring-a-dish-for-such-and-such-an-occasion anxiety.  It's silly, really, but I want that dish to be just right, and to complement what others are bringing, to make the best use of fresh, seasonal produce (or chocolate)...and to, well, please people.  Is that so terribly wrong?

So, last week, I was on the docket to bring a meal to a favorite friend, who just had a baby.  This friend is an easy-going gal, not a particularly picky eater.  And I've known her for going on twenty years.  (Oh, my, just felt that aging reminder.  Ouch.)  So, in no way should I be worrying about what to make for her.  And yet.

Just what is the right meal for someone who just had a baby?  That can live in the fridge for a few days, if need be.  And it's summer, which rules out heavy dishes.  And I am decidedly not a casserole person.  And it should be somewhat healthy, as she's just had a baby, after all.  You can see I gave myself a little struggle, probably unnecessarily so.  But, then I remembered a salad I used to make back in college, learned from a lovely woman for whom I nannied, which Shannon loved.

Hooray for the memory center of the brain, pulling through.  That's not usually happening round these parts.

I have no idea where this recipe originally came from, and I never even wrote down amounts back in the day.  It's one of those recipes that I remember from time to time, which evolves depending on where in the world we are, and which ingredients are available.  It's a very flexible sort of recipe.  The best sort.

Here is my current favorite incarnation:

Asian Noodle Salad - serves 4 - 6 as a main, with leftovers

1 pound vermicelli noodles (thin spaghetti works fine as well)

The Vegetables
One or more of the following vegetables (or whatever sounds good to you):
sugar snap peas, sliced on the diagonal
carrots, cut into matchsticks
baby corns
green beans, blanched and sliced on the diagonal
daikon, cut into matchsticks

The Dressing
1/4 cup soy sauce *
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tbs sesame oil
1 - 2 Tbs sriracha hot sauce, or to taste

*Note* I prefer to use the dark, thick type of soy sauce, found at Asian markets.  It sticks really well to the noodles, and gives the sauce a lovely, rich color.

The Garnish
small bunch cilantro, chopped
several green onions, chopped
1/4 cup unhulled sesame seeds, toasted

Cook the noodles until they are on the firm side of al dente, they will soak up dressing and soften further.  Run them under cold water to chill, and leave to drain while you prepare the dressing.

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together, then pour over the drained noodles, tossing to thoroughly coat.  Garnish with the chopped herbs, and toasted sesame seeds.

How utterly simple is that?

One last note.  Should you be making this to be eaten within the next few days, rather than immediately, simply toss the noodles with 1/3 of the dressing, so they don't stick together.  Keep the prepared vegetables and garnish separately stored.  This way, everything retains its flavor and texture.  When it comes time to serve, throw it all together.


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