We don't need to remind everyone that there's a serious heat wave washing over much of the country right now. How about we just give you something cool to serve for supper?
Cold may be a strong word to use for this dish. It's really more room temperature if you serve it right away, but it tastes great leftover, straight out of the fridge, so change the name as you wish. Chilly Peanut Sesame Noodles just didn't sound quite right to us.
We've seen a few versions of this dish around the web lately. Most of them contain sesame oil for that distinct, toasted flavor. Not all of them, however, have peanut butter -- which is one ingredient we really love. It makes the noodles a little sticky, especially when they are really cold, but we prefer a hearty peanut flavor mixed in with the scallions and Asian ingredients.
We also like to keep the vegetables simple: chopped scallions and cucumber sliced into tiny, thin matchsticks (a mandoline helps). You could add carrots or maybe some crunchy radishes, but don't go crazy. The noodles are the main event here.
And speaking of noodles, any long, thin variety is fine. Soba would be great, but spaghetti works, too. We used whole wheat spaghetti because it made eating an entirely too big bowl of noodles seem healthier, but use whatever sounds good to you.
Cold(ish) Peanut Sesame Noodles
serves four as a main course
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts 4 teaspoons peanut or canola oil, divided 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced 1 pound spaghetti or soba noodles 1 English (seedless) cucumber 5 scallions (white and light green parts) chopped 2 teaspoons black sesame seeds (toasted white ones would be fine, too)
For the sauce: 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter* 2 tablespoons rice vinegar 3 tablespoons sesame oil 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1 tablespoon sugar 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Cook the garlic and ginger for about 2 minutes, then remove and set aside.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil, increase the heat slightly, and add the chicken breasts. Cook until golden on each side, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from the pan and set aside to cool.
Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil and cook spaghetti according to the package directions. While it cooks, peel the cucumber and slice into thin strips about 4 inches long. This is much easier on a mandoline, but you can certainly do it by hand -- the strips can be any thickness you like.
In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the sauce, plus the garlic and ginger. When the spaghetti is finished cooking, drain and rinse under cold water until cool. Add to the bowl with the sauce and toss to coat. Add the cucumber, scallions, and sesame seeds.
Slice the cooled chicken into thin, diagonal strips and place on top of the noodles on each plate.
*If you use regular peanut butter, you may want to reduce the amount of sugar in the sauce, as non-natural peanut butter contains sugar.