From seventh through twelfth grade, Adriana and I went to an interesting school. Depending on where you're from, you might know the type. It was the sort of place where we were allowed to call our teachers by their first names, where art and foreign language were both core classes, and where you could easily fit our entire graduating class into one small classroom. With room to spare.
One of our school's many eccentricities was the Wednesday Half Day. On Wednesdays, we would only have half of our classes, and we would leave the squat building we called our campus at around 12:30. Adriana tells me this half day phenomenon was intended to give us time for the obligatory community service required by the school's founding principles. Most weeks, the two of us used it to fit in an extra study session. Cool we were not, but at least we got some really good grades.
And so it was that Wednesday afternoons constituted some of our first forays into trying to feed ourselves. If we were at Adriana's house, lunch might consist of Cheese Toast, spongy-sweet potato bread laden with Tillamook cheddar and broiled into open-faced sandwiches of bubbly deliciousness. If we found ourselves at my house, lunch often meant quesadillas we assembled in the microwave or Top Ramen boiled on the stove. While we've come quite a long way since then, both culinarily and nutritionally, there is one creation from that time that I am happy to reprise now: Rice noodles with peanut sauce.
Back then, I boiled the noodles and sparingly stirred in a few spoonfuls of the bottled gourmet peanut sauce I found in the fridge. I never lavished the noodles in quite as much sauce as I would have liked, as that stuff tasted so good to me, it might as well have been liquid gold. These days, I don't want to spend the money or the time seeking out the ideal sauce. I would much rather create one that suits my needs exactly. Throw in a little chicken for protein and broccoli florets to sop up all that flavorful sauce, and I have a delicious and nourishing meal. I love how sometimes, growing up is as easy as realizing you can make a sauce better than the one from the bottle. And serving a cucumber salad alongside your noodles.
Peanut Sesame Noodles
Adapted from Gourmet, June 2002
1/2 cup smooth, organic peanut butter
1/4 cup low sodium tamari
1/3 cup warm water
2 Tbs. chopped ginger
1 large garlic clove, chopped
2 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 Tbs. Asian sesame oil
2 tsp. honey
1 Tbs. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. dulse flakes
3/4 lb. thin dried rice noodles
4 scallions, thinly sliced
3 cooked chicken breasts
1 head broccoli, lightly steamed or sauteed
3 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds
Whisk sauce ingredients in a medium-sized bowl until they form a thick sauce. Cook rice noodles according to directions on package (usually by boiling about 3 minutes), and drain water from noodles. Add chicken, broccoli, sauce, and most of the scallions and sesame seeds, reserving some for garnish. Stir until noodles, chicken, and broccoli are coated with sauce. Serve on plates or shallow bowls, and garnish with reserved scallions and sesame seeds.
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2001
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. agave nectar
1 tsp. low sodium tamari
1 tsp. Asian sesame oil
2 medium cucumbers, sliced very thin on a mandolin
Whisk first four ingredients together until agave nectar dissolves. Place sliced cucumbers in a bowl, and pour in enough dressing to coat each slice (you will probably have some dressing left over). Toss the cucumbers to coat, let sit for 15 minutes in the fridge, and toss them again. Serve.