Everyone has fallback recipes—recipes that they turn to on a busy night or on a night when trying something new seems like too much work. My ultimate fallback recipe comes from Ted Allen’s book The Food You Want to Eat. Ted’s recipe for Sesame-Peanut Noodles is not only easy, but it is both comforting and healthy.
While many pasta recipes are packed with simple (but delicious) carbohydrates, these noodles are different. Instead of using traditional pasta noodles, for this recipe, I use soba noodles. The word soba is Japanese for buckwheat, and these noodles are made of buckwheat flour. Soba noodles are high in protein and B vitamins. They have a nutty taste, and, to boot, if you choose 100% buckwheat noodles, they are also gluten-free!
When I made these noodles the other day, I was excited, because this recipe gave me the chance to take advantage of my, now thriving, herb garden. I am growing a variety of herbs—basil, thyme, rosemary, Italian parsley, lemon verbena, mint, chives—but for this recipe, I grabbed a handful of my fresh cilantro.
Below, you will notice the long ingredient list. Do not be apprehensive. Once you decide you want to prepare different Thai and Chinese dishes, you will need to stock up on some of these traditional Asian ingredients. You won’t be sorry to have these ingredients on hand; most are non-perishable and will keep for months. If you don’t have any of the fresh ingredients on hand, then you can make the dish without them. It is still delicious. The reason this dish is a fallback recipe for me is that, even if I don’t have any fresh produce around, I can still throw it together. You can even throw in some shredded chicken or tofu. It just never turns out bad.
Adapted from Ted Allen’s The Food You Want to Eat
- kosher salt for boiling pasta
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup peanut butter
- 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
- 1/3 cup roasted peanuts
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons mirin (sweetened Japanese rice wine) or sherry
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or more for spicier noodles)
- 1 cucumber, peeled
- 1 pound soba noodles
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 scallions, green parts only, thinly sliced
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they turn golden brown, about 5 minutes.
- In a food processor, combine the peanut butter, sesame oil, peanuts, soy sauce, vinegar, mirin/sherry, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Process to puree. Stir in half of the toasted sesame seeds.
- Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon; discard the seeds. Slice the cucumber halves crosswise about 1/4-inch thick; set aside.
- When the water comes to a boil, add the noodles and cook until tender, 4 to 5 minutes (test noodles frequently; do not overcook). Drain noodles and dump into a bowl. Add the peanut mixture, cilantro, and black pepper, and toss to coat. Turn out onto a large platter. Arrange the cucumber slices around the edge of the platter, sprinkle the scallions on top, and sprinkle the remaining sesame seeds on last.
- Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4.