When I was 17 and an ardent vegetarian (I've since recovered), my good friend Allison introduced me to soba noodles. These nutty, chewy, buckwheat strands cooked up faster than pasta and were delicious with a quick sauce of rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and minced ginger. I was doing much of my grocery shopping at Asian markets at the time and buying soba noodles by the armful. But then I found peanut sauce and my soba noodles took on a whole new, far more delicious life.
Noodles and sauce should always be a part of the cooking-fresh-from-the-pantry plan, since noodles are so often lurking somewhere in the cabinets and numerous pantry staples can come together to make a delicious sauce. Peanut sauce is a sauce I make from the pantry time and time again because there's nothing in it that you'd have to go out and buy.
The Kitchn Cookbook's Cold Peanut Sesame Noodles with Pan-Seared Chicken
Serves 4 as a main dish or 6 as a side dish
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 teaspoons peanut oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
1/2 pound soba noodles
1 English (seedless) cucumber, about 12 inches long
2 medium carrots
5 scallions (white and light green parts), chopped
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
For the sauce:
1/4 cup natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Heat 2 teaspoons of the peanut 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 done, about 10 minutes and the chicken is no longer pink inside or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breasts reads 165°F. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside to cool.
Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil and cook noodles according to the package directions. While they cook, peel and julienne the cucumber and carrot. Set aside.
To make the sauce: In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, oil, sugar, and pepper flakes, adding the reserved garlic and ginger. When the noodles are finished cooking, drain and rinse them under cold water until cool. Add to the bowl with the sauce and toss to coat. Add the cucumber, carrot, scallions, and sesame seeds.
To serve, mound noodles onto individual plates. Slice the cooled chicken into thin, diagonal strips and place on top of the noodles. Serve immediately. The chicken and noodles will keep in refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 2 days.
Reprinted with permission from The Kitchn Cookbook: Recipes, Kitchens & Tips to Inspire Your Cooking by Sara Kate Gillingham and Faith Durand, copyright (c) 2014. Published by Clarkson Potter.