Cold Sesame or Peanut Noodles

MAKES: 2 main-course or 4 side-dish servings

TIME: 30 minutes

This is an easy dish to assemble at the last minute, especially if you do all the gathering, rinsing, trimming, and slicing of ingredients in advance. Serve as part of a larger Chinese meal or in larger portions as lunch or a light supper. To make it more substantial, add 1/2 cup or so of small tofu cubes, cooked soybeans, or few spoonfuls of Crunchy Crumbled Tempeh.

Salt

1 pound cucumbers

12 ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles or long pasta, like linguine

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil

1/2 cup tahini, peanut butter, or a combination

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste

1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger (optional)

1 tablespoon rice or white wine or other vinegar

Hot sesame oil or Tabasco sauce to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste

At least 1/2 cup minced scallion for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half, and, using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Cut the cucumber into shreds (you can use a grater for this) and set aside.

When the water comes to a boil, cook the noodles or pasta until tender but not mushy. While the pasta is cooking, whisk together the sesame oil and paste, sugar, soy, ginger, vinegar, hot oil, and pepper in a large bowl. Thin the sauce with hot water so that it’s about the consistency of heavy cream; you will need 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Stir in the cucumbers. When the pasta is done, drain it and run the pasta under cold water. Drain.

Toss the noodles with the sauce and cucumbers. Taste, add salt if necessary, then garnish and serve.

Variation

Cold Fiery Noodles. Like a salad, really, with lots of crisp vegetables and a light, hot-sweet dressing: Rinse (and trim if you like) 1/2 cup bean sprouts and slice a handful of radishes (any kind). Chop up some cilantro leaves and some peanuts for garnish. When you make the dressing, omit the sesame or peanut paste; increase the vinegar to 2 tablespoons and add 1/4 cup peanut or neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn. When you stir in the cucumbers in Step 2, add the sprouts and radishes and at least a teaspoon of chile paste or minced fresh chile (like jalapeo or Thai). Thin with just a tablespoon or so of water. Proceed with the recipe, garnishing each serving with a sprinkle of scallions, cilantro, and peanuts.