Monday, July 7, 2014

A Lovely Noodle Salad for Summer

When looking at options for side dishes for the 4th of July, I recalled an old recipe from a long ago issue of Cuisine at Home. It involved using Ramen noodle packets, without the flavor packet. I would never eat Ramen noodles with the flavor packet, so this suited me just fine. When I made this salad from its original recipe, I found that there was far too much juicy dressing left in the bowl after the salad was gone. I remedied this by using either an extra half-packet of Ramen noodles, or, somewhere along the way I had found  "Japanese Curly Noodles" in 5 ounce packets, which work perfectly. There is enough dressing to keep the salad properly moist, without all the excess.
Japanese Curly Noodle Salad

The reason I have not made this salad, or even a variation is because I am not fond of peanut butter. Actually, I really just don't like peanut butter. I ate it throughout my childhood, but I was never, ever one to scoop up a dollop of peanut butter to eat just plain. All that aside, I do keep peanut butter in the house. When our friend Rich visits, he generally looks for peanut butter at some point. And then sometimes peanut butter cookies are a must. Not for me, but my husband also loves peanut butter. I dug out the recipe to see what all was involved and sat down to think about what I really wanted in the recipe.

I had planned on adding more veggies than I did, but you know how sometimes you have guests talking with you while you are cooking and you just get distracted? Well, due to that situation I entirely forgot to add in carrots and scallions, but I had made other changes to the original recipe as well. The salad was delicious, and the peanut butter was not overly noticeable, a win-win for me. The whole salad can easily be assembled the day before with no adverse consequences.
Grilled Barbecued Chicken

I was serving Grilled Barbecued Chicken for the Fourth, and this salad was one of the side dishes. My sister-in-law brought a pea salad for my husband - it is a standard for him. I will not eat it with canned peas (too much sodium) and Miracle Whip (a flavor I despise). If I made that salad I would use frozen peas and mayo, which would make it all wrong for him. So, his sister keeps him contented with pea salad as their Mom made it. She also brought cole slaw for me. It was an abundant table!

Thermapen - the best! See it here!
The chicken was prepared on the evening before. I cut up 2 whole chickens into component parts, cutting each breast into two pieces. I used the BBQ Chicken Rub all over the chicken pieces, setting them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet, covered with foil in the fridge overnight. My goal was to cook the chicken over the unheated side of the grill, low and slow for about 3 or more hours. This plan somehow got derailed as once again I was busy with our guests and managed to get the chicken on the grill far later than I planned. I left it slowly cooking for about an hour, but there was little evidence of any real cooking taking place yet, and I had planned supper for about 6 PM. Ultimately, I lit all the gas grill burners on low and cooked the chicken carefully, moving it around to hotter or less hot areas of the grill until they all reached 165 degrees on my Thermapen instant thermometer. I brushed on the Barbecue Sauce 2 recipe about 1/2 hour prior to the chicken being done, and once again about 15 minutes prior. I finally got all the chicken done in time for supper, after about a total of 2 1/2 hours. It was delicious, so all was well. 

Japanese Curly Noodle Salad

serves 6 to 8

DRESSING: (*great to make ahead!)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 - 3 teaspoons grated or finely minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard powder
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha sauce, or more as desired
1 1/2 Ramen or Curly Noodle packs, about 4 1/2 to 5 ounces total 
1 cup bok choy, white parts, sliced
greens from bok choy, julienned
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 carrot, peeled and grated
3 - 4 scallions, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

* The dressing is easily made up to 3 days in advance, covered tightly and refrigerated. The peanut butter will combine best if it is softened in the microwave briefly before whisking into the rest of the ingredients. To make the dressing, place all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until combined.

Cook the noodles in boiling water according to package directions. My package suggested dropping them into boiling water, waiting until they floated to break apart and time for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well. Place noodles into a large bowl. 

Chop and prepare the vegetables and place in bowl with the noodles. Pour the dressing over all and toss very well. Garnish with a few more cilantro leaves.

After dinner and sitting around chatting, we all piled into the car to head towards the park for fireworks. Lots of people had their own displays while we waited, and a good time was had by all, despite the mosquitoes!

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.