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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Asian pasta salad

What would I do if I didn't have google?

I would just have to call my friend Jacque. Really, other than the fact that I can't call her in the middle of the night without feeling a we bit guilty about setting her nerves on end and potentially sending her to the loony bin some day, she is just as good as google.

Whether I am wondering how to get a tempera paint stain out of carpet, where I can buy cheap baskets, or what to do with a head of broccoli, 15 minutes, and only one pot, she has the answer. Immediately.

So, this week I loosely used a recipe that she provided me... which just so happens to use a head of broccoli, 15 minutes, and one pot.

Let's define "loosely." By this, I mean I used the vegetables that I got in my box of produce this week, and not at all the vegetables that are suggested by the recipe. Also, whenever the recipe called for an ingredient I didn't have, I found something somewhat in the same family and used that instead. I consulted a similar recipe from A Girl A Market A Meal for some ideas in making substitutions. In the end, "loosely" means that the recipe came from two sources, and in may ways resembles both, while at the same time having parts that are nothing at all like either.

This pasta salad works as a great side dish. The flavors in it -- peanut, ginger, garlic -- are somewhat reminiscent of Pad Thai. I served it along with an Asian-flavored cole slaw, and barbecued chicken that I marinated in other Asian-inspired flavors (soy sauce, more garlic, more ginger).  The slaw and the pasta should both be done ahead of time, so when your guests arrive, you can stand around the barbecue, enjoying a drink, knowing that as soon as the meat is done, your meal is ready to go.

But before we count our bottles of beer on the wall, let's make the pasta dish.

First, boil a pound of pasta. Any shape is fine, but I prefer a size that is a similar length as the carrot shreds we will run into very soon.

Cut up your vegetables at this point: Cut a head of broccoli into florets, and slice the stem thinly. Also take the strings out of snap pea pods, and shred a couple of carrots.

While the pasta boils, whisk together some very tasty, very common ingredients: peanut butter, vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic. Be sure and do this in a nice big bowl.  Exact amounts are below, in the boring part of this post.

As soon as the pasta is cooked, drain it quickly, throw it on top of the sauce you whisked up, and stir it to combine it all.

Now you can also stir in the shredded carrots. Since they are shredded, they are thin enough that the heat from the just-boiled pasta will make them perfectly soft, but not mushy.

Put your broccoli into that pot of boiling water, and let it cook just until it is crisp, but no longer crunchy.
Drain the broccoli and stir it into the noodles.

Use the same boiling pot of water to cook the pea pods until they are the same. The pea pods will cook more quickly, so you can't put them in at the same time as the broccoli. Stir the pea pods into the noodles as well.

Now let it all cool. That's it! You're done!

But wait! Don't throw that water down the drain! You will notice that it is pretty green. Let all those vitamins floating around in there have another life, and use the water, once it is cooled, to water your garden. Your plants will thank you.

Here is the recipe:

1 pound pasta
1 large head of broccoli
6 ounces snap peas
2 carrots
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup vinegar of your choice
1 tsp. sesame oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. minced ginger

Boil pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking, chop broccoli into florets and thin slices of the stem. Take the strings out of the pea pods. Shred the carrots.

Whisk together the peanut butter, vinegar, oil, garlic, and ginger in a large bowl.

As soon as pasta is done, add to the sauce and stir to coat evenly.

Stir in shredded carrots.

In the boiling water from the pasta, cook the broccoli for about 3 minutes. Drain it and stir it into the pasta.

In the same boiling water, cook the snap peas for about 2 minutes. Drain and stir into the pasta.

Let it cool before serving.