Take-Out Fake-Out: Cold "Peanut" Noodles

Let me tell you about me and my group of friends: we are a chef's nightmare. Half of us are gluten free, some of us are dairy free. One is vegetarian, another is vegan. And I don't eat peanuts (among other things).  Most people would be intimidated by this set of challenges, but we manage to get together around food, like, a lot. We have become agile in cooking for different dietary needs. Seriously, you should come to one of our houses for dinner.

Under this shining review I just rendered, you would think that this <<AMAZING>> recipe would satisfy all of our gluten-free, dairy free, peanut free needs...alas, there is one person in our group who cannot eat this because he is allergic to almonds. You can't win them all.

All of this is to say that if you, like Charley, are allergic to almonds, you can swap out the almond butter for peanut butter, unless someone else in your group doesn't eat peanuts (like me) and then maybe you can try cashew butter (which I haven't). In addition, you could also use traditional wheat pasta instead of gluten free pasta. Your choice. Mah point: this is a versatile recipe that can feed a diverse crowd of 30 and 40-somethings with a whole range of dietary sensitivities and needs. And kids love it too. How's that for a tasty introduction?

This really is one of my very favorite recipes. It pairs well with a salad, or a meat, or a soup. You can make it ahead. You can enjoy it hot, or you can enjoy it cold. I know it says "cold" in the title, but trust me, it's good either way.

I do want to take a moment to talk about why I use a more traditional noodle instead of say, an Asian-style rice noodle. Because, after all, this is an Asian-ish dish. (I say "Asian-ish" because honestly, I don't know the roots of this dish. While it appears on many a Chinese take out menu, my understanding of Chinese-American food is that it's a largely American incarnation.) So maybe we are just heathens and enjoy these exclusively in America... if it's wrong, I don't want to be right.

The problem with flat rice noodles, or even vermicelli style rice noodles is that they tend to fall apart as you stir them with a sauce, and this really get under my skin. I have found that spaghetti and spaghetti-style rice noodles (my favorite brand is Tinkyada, by the way) stay intact and absorb the sauce really well. The ONLY problem with rice noodles is that they don't tend to stay as fresh in the refrigerator over time so you wanna eat these within a day or two, or heat them.

For serving, you can top these noodles with sesame seeds if you have them, diced green onions if thats your jam, and if you stray toward the spicy, Sriracha. YUM!

Okay. With all the formalities out of the way, let's dive into this recipe, shall we?!

Cold "Peanut" Noodles

Time: 25 minutes (active) 2+ hours (passive) | Serves 4 | Difficulty: EASY! 

You Will Need:

12 ounces noodles (spaghetti, gluten free or regular, your choice)
3/4 cup almond butter 
4 cloves minced garlic 
1/4 cup rice vinegar (I have also used apple cider, which is terrific too!) 
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil 
1/2 cup soy sauce 
1/8 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup pasta water 

Special equipment- blender or immersion blender (I prefer to use my immersion blender, but this totally a personal thing.) 


Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. 

While you are waiting for the water to boil, you can blend your ingredients to make the sauce. Place the almond butter, garlic, vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, and olive oil in a glass jar or in the blender. Blend until nice and smooth: 

You can taste the sauce and adjust a little if you like more acid (vinegar) or more salt (soy). But be warned, once you taste the sauce, you are literally going to want to eat all the sauce because it's outta this world! 

By now your water should be boiling. Go ahead and cook your pasta according to the directions on the package. When it's finished, I like to pull the pasta from the pot with a pair of tongs rather than draining it. 1) It makes it easier to get the 1/4 cup pasta water you'll want to add, and 2) it leaves a little extra moisture on the noodles. These noodles are going to absorb a hell of a lot of this sauce and the sauce will become nice and thick, so don't worry. Mama got you. 

Put your cooked noodles, your prepared sauce, and your 1/4 cup pasta water into a bowl and give it a good stir. I like to use tongs, but that's just me. You do you. The sauce may seem runny. It may seem like maybe you did something wrong. You didn't. Trust the process. 

Generally, I will let my noodles sit on the counter a little while until they aren't so piping hot. Maybe I eat some noodles out of the bowl while it's hot and yell, "YUM" into the void of my empty house (because everyone is at work and school and it's awesome.) When you're ready to stop plucking those hot, delicious noodles from the countertop bowl, put your noodles in the refrigerator for at least a couple of hours, giving it a stir in the middle somewhere to help it cool evenly. When it's time to eat, top with sesame seeds or green onions, and serve with a salad or a nice piece of meat! 

Enjoy in the company of people you love! 

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