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Sesame Noodle Salad with Sweet Peppers and Cucumbers

Makes: a lot. Enough for 4 people with leftovers.

* 1/4 cup sesame seeds
* 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
* 2 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed (about 2 teaspoons)
* 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
* 5 tablespoons soy sauce
* 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
* 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
* 2 tablespoons lightly packed light brown sugar
* Hot water
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 1 pound fresh Chinese egg noodles or 12 ounces dried spaghetti
* 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
* 4 scallions, sliced thin on the diagonal
* 1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater (about 2/3 cup)
* 1 medium red pell pepper
* 1 medium cucumber
* cilantro leaves for garnish

1. Core, seed, and cut into 1/4 inch slices, 1 medium red bell pepper. Peel, halve lengthwise, seed and cut crosswise a medium cucumber into 1/8 inch slices.

Toast the sesame seeds in a medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes.

Reserve 1 tablespoon sesame seeds in a small bowl. In a blender or food processor, puree the remaining 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, the peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, hot pepper sauce, and brown sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds.

With the machine running, add hot water 1 tablespooon at a time until the sauce has the consistence of heavy cream, about 5 tablespoons. Set the mixture aside.

2. Bring 6 quarts water to a boil in a stockpot. Add the salt and noodles to the boiling water, boil the noodles until tender, about 4 minutes for fresh and 10 minutes for dried. Drain, then rinse under cold running water until cool to the touch. Drain again. In a large bowl, toss the nododles with the sesame oil until evenly coated. Set aside.

3. Add the peppers, cucumber, scallions, carrot, and sauce to the prepared noodles, toss to combine. Divide among individual bowls, sprinkle each bowl with some of the reserved sesame seeds and with fresh cilantro leaves.