My Version of Contessa Garten's Crunchy Noodle Salad

My Version of Contessa Garten’s Crunchy Noodle Salad

For reasons known only to the version of me from ten years ago, I changed this lovely crispy cold salad into a hot noodle dish. In all versions, I leave out the red bell peppers because I don’t care for bell peppers. Any dish I put bell peppers into always ends up mostly tasting like bell peppers. Also, Eddie Murphy had a comedy bit where he talked about wanting to have McDonald’s, but his mom made him eat a homemade burger with chunks of green pepper in it instead.

Anyway, I make this hot version about once a month and my family loves it. Make Contessa Garten’s original version if you’d like, I highly recommend it. It’s the recipe I made that convinced me that the Contessa’s recipes are worth risking my time and money on.

Ingredients for Aileen’s version of Contessa Garten’s Crunchy Noodle Salad

(We call them Gina Noodles because my neighbor Gina really liked them)

¾ pound thin spaghetti

12 oz. sugar snap peas (I buy a package of them from Trader Joe’s)

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup chicken stock

⅓ cup rice vinegar

⅓ cup low sodium soy sauce

3 tablespoons dark sesame oil

1 tablespoon honey

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 teaspoons peeled, grated ginger  

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted

½ cup smooth peanut butter

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Garnish: (“That caviar is a garnish.” Name the movie!)

4 scallions, white and green parts (I grew up calling these things green onions)

1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds

Method

Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.  Cook thin spaghetti to package directions (sorry to have you use ¾ a pound but a pound makes a huge amount and we never finish it).  Drain the noodles then rinse them in cold water.  Set aside.

Okay, I live in California and we are hysterical about water usage.  The original version of this recipe says the following: Meanwhile, bring another large pot of salted water to a boil, add the sugar snap peas, return to a boil, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp tender.  Lift the sugar snap peas from the water with a slotted spoon and immerse them in a bowl of ice water.  Drain.

That is a lot of water.  Go ahead and do it that way if it works best for you. No judgment.  I bet it’s super delicious.  I buy a 12oz package from Trader Joe’s that can be microwaved.  If you do it this way, be very careful not to over cook the sugar snap peas, maybe do a test batch?

Toast all 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds in a dry pan until light brown and fragrant.  I wander away when I do this and half the time end up scorching the seeds.  Set the sesame seeds aside.  You can even line them up with the noodles and snap peas, like a little parade.

For the sauce, whisk together

  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup chicken stock
  • ⅓ cup rice vinegar
  • ⅓ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • ½ smooth peanut butter
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoons pepper
  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted

I use the pot I boiled the noodles in to mix this whole thing together.  The pot is a big, oval, 5 qt green thing that weighs a ton.  The pot should be cool to the touch and it SHOULD BE OFF HEAT.  DO NOT HAVE THE BURNER ON UNDER THE POT BECAUSE I RECOMMEND YOU MIX ALL THIS WITH YOUR HANDS AND I DON’T WANT YOU TO BURN YOURSELF.

Give the noodles another quick rinse if they seem a little sticky, then put them in the pot.  Then put in the sugar snap peas.  Then give the sauce one more quick whisk and pour it over the noodles and sugar snap peas.  It should look like a difficult to stir lump, which it is.

ALL OF THE INGREDIENTS SHOULD BE ROOM TEMPERATURE FOR THIS STEP OR YOU COULD BURN YOUR HANDS.  Using clean hands or gloved hands, reach in there and gently mix this all together, making sure to get the sauce all mixed in with those skinny delicious noodles.  You can use a spoon or one of those pronged noodle grabbers or even metal salad spoons would work.

Now, you can eat this thing room temperature.  It’s delicious.  Chop up the scallions and add them in along with the remaining 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds and viola!

But, if you want it hot go ahead and gently heat it up.  DO NOT MIX WITH YOUR HANDS ANYMORE, IT WILL NOW START GETTING HOT AND YOU COULD BURN YOUR PRECIOUS HANDS.

I use a set of metal salad servers in the shape of skeleton hands to mix this together as it heats up.  If the sauce seems thick, add water or any leftover stock a tablespoon at a time until the sauce loosens up.

Once the noodles and sugar snap peas and sauce is the temperature you want, think about getting it out of the pan so it stops heating.  Peanut butter can be tricky when heated.  Garnish with chopped scallions and remaining tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds.

This tastes delicious the day you make it, but if you have leftovers, add a tiny bit of water (no more than a teaspoon per 1 cup serving) before you reheat.  It’s the type of dish that tastes better the next day.

Refrigerate any uneaten portion.  Does not freeze well.  That is all.

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