Rice Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing

Such a pretty salad.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t quite the presentation we got for dinner. Yes, I’m that ridiculous about my blog – I plated it, took pictures, then dumped the whole thing in tupperware for dinner on the road. And yes, we ate it straight from the container. We’re pretty high class.

I’ve made infinite variations of this salad, but I think this is the first time I’ve ever tried it with rice noodles, and I know for a fact that it’s the first time that I mixed chili garlic sauce in with the dressing.

Mike and I became obsessed with a similar sauce while we were traveling in Southeast Asia, and now we probably go through a jar this size almost every week. That may be a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but I love mixing it with tahini as a sandwich spread or dip for crackers or vegetables.

I planned this salad to be our dinner on the road, because we’re going back “home” this weekend. I’m not sure if I can call it home because I only lived there for 8 years, but Mike spent the first 28 years of his life there, so I think he definitely can.

Because our usual stop for food on the drive home is the bulk bagel section at Safeway, I decided it might be smarter to pack a healthy dinner to go so we don’t have to rely on crappy bagels. This looked perfect. And it was!

Our friends back home are having a big Thanksgiving dinner and I offered to make a pecan pie. Because I only had a half day at work I was thinking I’d have plenty of time to stop by the store, go for a run, pack, bake the pie, and make dinner. Ummmm, fail.

I ended up spending way too much time trying to figure out which pie recipe to use, and by the time I finished everything in the kitchen it was clear I’d have to skip the run. Sorry legs, I promise we’ll run tomorrow! And while we’re on the topic of pie, I have two very strong opinions about crust. 1) All butter is the only way to go (shortening is gross) and 2) The pastry blender is magical. Why would you dirty all the pieces of a food processor when you can just use this little baby and get amazing results?

You can fight me on these if you want to, but I’m not easily persuaded.

I think the pie looks moderately burnt but hopefully people will have had enough wine by then that they won’t know the difference. And dim lighting should help, too.

And that, my friends, is the pile of crap we took with us. I carried it all to the car in one trip, in the rain, while balancing a pie in each hand. Why we need that much stuff for a 2-night trip 3 hours away I’m not sure. We’ve clearly completely lost the art of packing that was such a part of our lives when we lived out of backpacks for months on end. But on the upside I get a hot shower every day now, so I think it’s an OK trade.

So back to the salad: it’s filling without being overly heavy, it’s infinitely modifiable, and the recipe makes plenty! I think I’ll whip some up on a Sunday and use it for lunches throughout the week. It’s even better after it sits in the fridge for a few hours.

Recipe:
(adapted from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies via Eats Well With Others)

1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tbsp cup soy sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 cup warm water
1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce (optional)

8 ounces rice noodles (linguine shape)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 pound tofu, drained and pressed
1 medium zucchini, sliced into half moons
1 red bell pepper, cut into matchsticks
1 medium carrot, cut into thin slices
3 tbsp green onions (green parts only, sliced
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

Combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and chili garlic sauce in a blender and pulse until smooth. Add the water a few tsp at a time and blend to desired consistency.

Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Cook the rice noodles for about 3 minutes, then drain and rinse with cold water. Keep submerged in a bowl of cold water until you’re ready to mix the salad.

Cut the tofu into bite-size slices (1″ x 1″, 1/2″ thick).

Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium high. Add the tofu in a single layer and cook for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown. Add all the vegetables and stir fry a few minutes, until they’re just tender.

Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Drain the noodles and toss with the tofu and vegetables in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the noodle mixture and mix well. Sprinkle with basil, cilantro, and green onions to serve.

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