We still have one full glorious month of summer left. Enough for lots more days at the beach, bike rides or hikes, ice cream cones, sweet salty air, and so much good local produce. I am trying to shut out thoughts that summer is dwindling and to remember all that we've already experienced and all the beautiful days that lie ahead. Now that we will be in one place for more than a few weeks I realize that I have barely begun to make use of the summer foods which, for most of the year, are only memories. I've munched pounds of snap peas and cucumbers and thrown together piles of vegetables that need little more than some cheese or olive oil to make a meal but now that we're settling back in I feel pulled to spend more time in the kitchen.
Beyond making yogurt almost weekly and figuring out something for dinner I have spent most of my hours in the kitchen sweeping or putting away dishes. I am taking a master food preserver class but I have not yet canned anything on my own stove. Summer is not always the ideal time to cook or bake but I miss feeling engaged with the hearth of our home.
One of my favorite salads this summer provides a break from my typical dinner dishes but it requires no hot slaving and it is served cold. It starts with a pile of sliced fresh vegetables which you tangle among the thinnest of rice noodles. The sauce, which I discovered when my brother made a similar salad, is lightly peanutty and savory with a hint of sweet. It keeps well in the fridge and seems like a good thing to have on hand. Together they make an unfussy and satisfying meal.
Thai Vegetable Salad
This recipe works best as a rough outline. Slice your vegetables so that you have about as many vegetables as noodles, or more. If you prefer more noodles, you can cook more or use fewer vegetables. A mandoline slicer (this one is the best) is ideal for quickly slicing the into the thinnest strips.
The recipe for the sauce is adapted from this one, make sure you adjust everything to your taste.
I like to serve this salad with pan fried tofu for a more complete meal.
4 ounces of very thin rice noodles (I like these)
1 small cabbage
2 small or one large cucumber
1 red pepper
1 small bunch of cilantro
A handful of snap peas, mung bean sprouts, or scallions
Peanut Coconut Sauce
13.5 ounce can of coconut milk
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon red curry paste
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the noodles. Turn off the heat and let them sit for two minutes. Drain the noodles and run them under cold water to stop them from cooking further and to chill them. Once the noodles are cold, set them aside.
Slice all of the vegetables into thin, bite sized pieces or strips. Toss the vegetables with the cold noodles in a serving bowl.
To make the sauce, pour the coconut milk, peanut butter, brown sugar, soy sauce and curry paste into a blender or food processor. Blend or process until smooth. Adjust ingredients to your taste.
Toss the salad with the sauce before serving or leave them separate and let each person sauce their own portion.
Serves 2-3 for a meal, 4-6 for a side.