I tend to get stuck in cooking ruts. I’ll find/create a recipe I really like, it will win approval from my husband, and then I will make it once a week for 3 months. And then I’ll forget about it for a year… and then I’ll remember it, and make it once a week for 3 months. And so on and so forth. Recently, I’ve been stuck in a rut of lots of soups (this tortilla soup being one of them, this chili being another), risottos (like this one), and pastas (including this one). I decided last week to peruse my Pinterest board and come up with a few fun and new ideas to try out this week, and in doing so, I added a few new items to my weekly menu. I’m hoping to keep up this trend for a while, until I get some fun new meals in my rotation.
The dish I made last night is still a pasta – but not in the typical tomato/cheese/onion/garlic sense. It’s an Asian pasta, with a sauce made of garlic, and soy sauce, and peanut butter, and other delicious things… in other words, NOTHING like the pastas I usually make. My husband and I both love Asian flavors, so I figured this would be a great dish to try out.
Now, I understand that not everyone is into Asian flavors, including sauces containing peanut butter (Crist has expressed to me no less than 10 times that she thinks this recipe looks disgusting – I wish she would just tell me how she really feels), but if you’re feeling even remotely adventurous, you should give this one a try. The flavors are awesome (lots of great, salty deliciousness), the recipe is simple and quick, and the light, crisp, fresh vegetables really balance the richness of the sauce nicely. I’d give it two thumbs up.
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons rice wine (or dry white wine)
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
8 oz (measured dry) of spaghetti (or other long noodle)
1.) To make the sauce, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, wine, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, and shallot, and process until smooth (you can use a food processor, a blender, or an immersion blender – which is what I used). Taste, and adjust ingredients as necessary (when I first tested mine, it was a little heavy on the soy and vinegar, so I adjusted by adding a bit more peanut butter and wine – your tastes may vary, so adjust to your own preference).
2.) Boil your pasta until al dente (don’t forget to salt the water!)
3.) While the pasta is boiling, prep your toppings. I just chopped my peanuts, and then peeled my carrots into curls with a vegetable peeler, and that was it – no cooking. I briefly steamed the snow peas in the microwave (half a pound of snow peas, 1 T of water, cover the bowl with saran wrap and microwave for about 2 minutes). You could also add steamed broccoli, or bean sprouts, or thin strips of red pepper – whatever you have on hand, or sounds good to you! I like to keep the vegetables as crisp and raw as possible, to add some texture and freshness to the dish.
4.) When your pasta is cooked, drain it, and then return it to the pot. Pour the sauce over (I started by pouring about 2/3 in – I didn’t end up needing it all), add your vegetables, and toss to coat everything.
5.) Serve with chopped peanuts on the side to garnish – they add an excellent crunch!
Simple, easy, and delicious – just the way I like it! Now, I know that this recipe contains a lot of ingredients that you might not have, if you’ve never made Asian dishes before – so the initial investment can be a little much (probably $15-$20, if you’re picking up soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and sesame oil – I just used white wine, instead of the rice wine). However, these ingredients will last you a LONG time. I think I initially bought all this stuff for a tuna tartare recipe about… 2 years ago? Maybe 3? And I still have plenty of all of them. So, don’t be afraid to add a few new items to your pantry.
Additionally, this dish is also delicious served cold – so it would be a great meal to make ahead, if you know you’re going to be short on time one evening, and just want to be able to pull something out of the fridge!
You’ll also notice that I served some roasted cauliflower on the side. Most vegetables totally repulse me when they’re just steamed or blanched – but I LOVE roasted vegetables. Love love love. Learning to roast vegetables has increased my vegetable intake by about 500%, no joke. Anyways, here is what I did with this cauliflower (I just made it up as I went along, so measurements are approximate).
Roasted Asian Cauliflower
Serves 2, very generously
1/2 a medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 T red wine vinegar
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
1/4 t red pepper flakes
3/4 t ground ginger
1.) Preheat your oven to 400°. Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl, until all the cauliflower is evenly coated.
2.) Line a baking sheet with foil (non-stick, if you have it), and spread the cauliflower out into a single layer on the sheet. Roast for about 25-30 minutes, flipping the florets once, until the edges are brown and crispy.
We served ours with a delicious Lebanese garlic sauce that we buy jarred (if you’re not familiar with Middle Eastern food, this garlic sauce is basically a super thick mayo, flavored with TONS of garlic – we have tons of Lebanese restaurants around us, and we grew up with the food, so finding this sauce for sale was a total jackpot for us… when I get home tonight, I’ll update this post with the brand name of the sauce, in case you want to seek it out)… but it’s also delicious on its own. Super flavorful, and really healthy, too!
And that, my friends, is a fun, delicious, and easy weeknight dinner. Trust me, I’ll be making this again VERY soon.