easy weeknight meal: peanut noodles

Getting back to the “appetite” portion of my blog and chronicling what works well as an easy weeknight meal. I dig meals that can be constructed with pantry ingredients and  still work with substitutions. If the directions need more planning than my next day’s lesson does and the ingredient list necessitates trips to Whole Foods, Stop & Shop, and C-Mart, then the recipe gets relegated to “differentiation challenge meal.”

I fell in love with the peanut noodles at the Citrus Club in San Francisco thirteen years ago and tried replicating them after collecting about 20 different recipes back in 2006. However, what I thought would combine the best of each recipe into Citrus Club-worthy goodness resulted in a gloppy mess. It’s like trying to craft a quadratics lesson plan with the best lessons that you’ve seen on every single math blog when you should have just gone with one idea and executed it well. After that experience, I vowed to leave the elusive peanut sauce alone.

During a recent hot summer day, I caught the Citrus craving once more. My favorite sushi restaurant offers various Thai and Asian fusion dishes as well, so I thought I’d go get takeout peanut noodles from them…but they were closed. A quick Google search yielded these peanut noodles from Smitten Kitchen. My older-and-wiser self paid much better attention to the ingredient amounts and directions, and I was very happy with the quickness and ease of preparation. My adjustments would be to add more noodles and vegetables next time. I realized after my fiance and I ate the entire pot that I’d used half a pound of noodles rather than 3/4, and I went lighter on the toppings because of not wanting to go out to the grocery store.

Peanut Sesame Noodles
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2002 and Smitten Kitchen

Servings: Makes 6 side-dish or 4 vegetarian main-course servings.

For peanut dressing
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove, chopped [added a bit more]
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Asian toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes or a splash of the hot sauce or chili paste of your choice

For noodles
3/4 lb dried soba nooodles (dried linguine fini or spaghetti will work in a pinch)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
{1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
Half a seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
1 cup firm or extra-firm tofu, cubed
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted} <– used sugar snap peas and cilantro instead

Puree dressing ingredients in a blender until smooth, about 2 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl.

Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until tender. Drain in a colander, then rinse well under cold water.

Add pasta, scallions, bell peppers, cucumber and tofu to dressing, tossing to combine. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and serve immediately.

Next up on my peanut noodle journey will be the Chloe’s Kitchen ones!

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