Saturday, June 18, 2011

Cool Noodle Salad for those Hazy Days

I think summer is here. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh... don't scare her away. The thunderstorms and steamy afternoons (and migraine headaches!) definitely mark the beginning of summer. So do strawberries and rhubarb in the market and an increasing urge to stay outside.

While a couple weeks ago I could get away with making soup and enjoying it despite the hot weather, I can't say that I could have done that for the past few days. Instead, a few days ago, I made a yummy, simple noodle salad that sat in the fridge and was enjoyed all week long. I used extra thin vermicelli, (but I think next time I might try cellophane noodles), sliced carrots, blanched broccoli and asparagus and dressed it with a lime, ginger and soy mixture. The final ingredient threw it over the top: Thai basil. Ever had it? It's definitely similar to Italian basil but with a sweeter and more licorice-y taste. When I smell it, I think of pho, that classic Vietnamese noodle soup that comes served with raw bean sprouts and tons of Thai basil that you just throw into the soup to cook. I used tons of it in this salad and it totally made the different between a great salad and a super-fantastic salad.

I used a combination of raw and cooked veggies, but if you were feeling lazy, you could stick with just raw ones. Cucumber would be very refreshing in this salad, as would sliced red peppers or even celery. For a bit more kick, you might want to add some chopped green onion, or use a fresh red chili in the dressing instead of the chili powder that I used. If you need a bit of protein in your salad, shredded cooked chicken would be perfect, as would some marinated tofu if you want to keep it veggie. Cilantro would have been a perfect herb to add as well, but try not to skip the Thai basil. If you don't grow it, you can usually find it wrapped in most Asian grocery stores. Personally, I'm ecstatic to have three little Thai basil patches growing on my balcony, because I plan to make this salad many more times this summer.

Now..what should I do with this big pot of spear mint that was given to me as a gift ......

Noodle Salad with Thai Basil
300g of dried, extra thin vermicelli (they come in little "cakes" -- I used three)
1 medium carrot, sliced into match sticks
1/2 head of broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 bunch of asparagus, trimmed and cut in half
a big handful of Thai basil
a few sprigs of fresh thyme

juice and zest of 2 juicy limes
1 tablespoon of light soy
1 tablespoon of dark soy
1 teaspoon of grated ginger
1 teaspoon of dark brown sugar or honey
1 teaspoon of toasted sesame seed oil
1 teaspoon of canola oil
a pinch of cayenne pepper

1. Soak the noodles in cold water for a couple of hours. Drain, and dunk into boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove (but keep the water to blanch your veggies) and run under cold water. Drain and put into a large bowl.

2. Blanch the asparagus and broccoli separately until tender. Drain and add to noodles. Add carrots and herbs and toss until everything is evenly distributed.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice and zest, oils, soy sauces, ginger and sugar. Taste and add more oil or sugar to your liking. It will be quite zing-y, but the noodles will mellow it out.

4. Pour 2/3 of the dressing in the salad and toss. Taste and add more if you like.

5. Serve immediately or chilled.

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