Summer time makes me want to eat constantly, consuming as much fresh fruits and vegetables as possible before the season is over and all you have left at your disposal is a whole mess of questionable imported produce. Which, don’t get me wrong, I love being able to buy Peruvian asparagus in mid-February, but there’s something just a *tad* different in flavor and freshness when the asparagus only had to travel a couple miles to my dinner plate.
So everyday recently I’ve been a veritable vegetable vacuum, hoovering up massive quantities of cherries, peaches and strawberries, corn-on-the-cob, fresh English peas, asparagus, scallions, watermelon, beets, carrots, and tons of other goodies. It certainly makes meal-planning a cooking a cinch. It almost makes summer cooking a little boring: fire up the grill/grill pan, throw some protein on there for a few minutes and then let the fruits and veggies on the plate do most of the work for you. Half the time they don’t even need cooking, just a squeeze of some lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil and a grind of salt. Dinner served. Creativity in the summer months is usually limited to “should I use hazelnuts or pine nuts in my pea pesto today? ”
Which has been great given the utter insanity of my schedule this summer, but I’m sort of missing the creative flair that’s needed to pull of a really fresh, healthy, well-rounded winter meal. There’s thought and time involved. The root vegetables that take over our plates in the colder months take a little more care and attention to make them sparkle (especially without using cheese as a crutch). It takes a little more effort to make me excited for a turnip the same way I get all giddy over peas.
I guess what it boils down to is that I enjoy eating more in the Summer and cooking more in the winter. Roasting, stewing, braising — these things are slower and more soulful. Blanching, sauteing, barbecuing — laid-back and impersonal.
But a few summers ago, bored with the usual suspects for dinner, I created a peanut-noodle dish that brings a little creativity back into the kitchen with it’s no-cook sauce, and choice of mix-in vegetables and noodle type. It’s still a low-heat dish (essential for hot-weather meals), particularly if you use my suggestion of using fresh pasta, which only takes a measly 2-3 minutes to boil.
Spicy Peanut Noodles
*2/3 of a pound fresh whole wheat fettuccine (or your favorite pasta/noodle — rice noodles or soba noodles would work well in this dish)
*2 small bunches of broccolini or one small head of broccoli, cut into florets
*a generous cup or more of snow peas, thinly sliced
for Peanut sauce:
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1/4 cup chunky peanut butter (I use Skippy natural)
*a few good squirts of Sriracha (more, if you like things spicy!)
*a splash of rice vinegar (or regular white vinegar/apple cider vinegar)
*a splash of maple syrup
*1/3 cup of soy sauce (I use Coconut Aminos since I’m allergic to soy)
Step 1: Stir together all of the sauce ingredients except the peanut butter. Once mixed, add in your peanut butter and, using a whisk or fork, blend until peanut butter is incorporated. This may take a little bit of work, but it does come together! Taste a little bit and add a little more of whatever you think it might need (if too salty, add a splash more of vinegar and a splash more of maple syrup; if too sweet, add a little more soy sauce and a little more vinegar; if not peanut-y enough, stir in more peanut butter)
Step 2: Heat up a small pan and add your sliced snow peas with a splash of water. Let saute, 2-3 minutes until bright green and they’re sizzling.
Step 3: Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions. When there’s only 2-3 minutes left, throw the broccolini in with the pasta to blanch (if using fresh pasta, throw everything in at once).
Step 4: Drain your pasta and vegetables and then throw back into the pot. Pour your sauce in and toss to coat everything. Serve in bowls and top with the sauteed snow peas.