Friday, August 19, 2011

Asian Inspired Noodle Salad

I am still on the starvation diet. (see here for explanation)
Apparently for a while.
I tried half and half in my coffee on Sunday.
I thought I'd bring back dairy first because I'd really, really like some chocolate.
No go.
Baby Davy has been suffering since Sunday afternoon
No amount of chocolate in the world is worth that.

I really appreciate the suggestions and tips that so many of you offered me in regards to the diet.
Lots advised against drinking coffee.
I was loathe to give that up, but willing to try it if I didn't see a difference with the starvation diet.
After continuing to drink coffee for the past 3 weeks while cutting out everything else, and seeing such a great improvement in Davy, I know it isn't the coffee.
(thank you Lord!)
It is dairy.  
And what else, I don't know yet.
But I'll continue on this crazy diet until I narrow it all down.
I think I'll try gluten next, because I'd really, really love to have a piece of bread with olive oil.
Or pizza with no cheese.
Or an Oreo cookie. 
Yeah.  Seriously.
Do you know those things have no dairy in them.
They are chock full of chemicals, but no dairy to be found.
And right now, an Oreo would taste so dang good.
I don't even like Oreos.
I think the cream filling tastes like Crisco.
But after 3 weeks of having watermelon for dessert, I could down half a bag of Oreos in a sitting.

The salad.
Eating is a chore right now.
I am trying to find the joy in it.
But, I'll be honest, it's hard.
I've been wanting pasta something fierce.
I found rice noodles at the store.
Rice noodles......what could I do with those?
I thought about it and came up with this.

It's a cold noodle salad, full of fresh vegetables and herbs.
It is easy to make.
Good for you.
And a perfect summer salad if you are tired of the same old traditional pasta salads.
Oh, and it tastes really, really good.

Let's get started.
You'll need a bag of rice noodles.
I wanted to make a lot of salad, so I used the whole bag.
The salad makes great leftovers, so I think making extra is a good idea.

As I was dreaming up this salad, I thought of ingredients of other Asian salads and soups I like, as well as the things I can eat right now.
I am sure the combination ingredients are not new, but they work really well together.
I used:
carrots  (i actually used 6 because I really like a lot of veggies)
cucumbers -- use Persian cucumbers if you can find them.  The taste and texture difference is so worth the extra price.  (i used 4 for the above reason)
green onions (3 if you want it more mild, 4 or 5 if you'd like to taste the onions more)
cilantro (again, to taste.  I used quite a bit--half a cup at least)
sesame seeds (1/4 to 1/2 a cup)
sesame oil
rice wine vinegar
salt to taste

Making the salad is easy.
Cook the noodles according to package directions.
Drain noodles and rinse them.
*Rinsing the noodles is very important. If you don't get that starch off, the noodles will stick together in one big, gelatinous clump and be really gross.
Transfer rinsed noodles to a large bowl and drizzle with some sesame oil to further aid in the non-stick noodle process.
Using a food processor, grate the carrots.
Add to noodles.
*If you do not have a food processor, you can use the large holes on a box grater for this.  It will just take a lot longer and you'll only use 3 carrots because you will be sick of grating.
Peel the cucumbers (i like to leave some skin on for more color) and cut in half and then half again.  Dice.
Add to noodles.
*If you are using a big cucumber instead of the smaller, Persian cucumber, you may need to cut them even smaller before you dice.
Trim the ends of the onions and slice white ends thinly.  Include some of the green ends for color.
Add to noodles.
Roughly chop cilantro, taking care to leave out the stems.
Add to noodles.
In a large frying pan, toast the sesame seeds.
*Watch the seeds carefully as they can quickly burn.  just stay there to stir, or toss the seeds until they become a golden brown and fragrant.
Add seeds to noodles.
Mix all the ingredients with the noodles.
*You can use a big spoon for this, but I find it easier to use my hands.
The cucumbers want to sink to the bottom of the bowl.
And, as weird as it sounds, you can use your fingers to separate the noodles so that the other ingredients can spread out through the salad.
In a small measuring cup, mix together some sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and sugar.
*I, of course, did not measure when I made the dressing.  But I think it is best for you to play around with it until you find the right combination for you.
That's why I said use a measuring cup.  Add some sesame oil first.  Then add some vinegar.  Add a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and mix.  Taste.  Then you can adjust according to your preference. If you want it sweeter, add more sugar.  More vinegary, add more.  Too tart, add more oil.  
Once you've found the perfect balance, pour the dressing over your salad.
*I used about a half cup of dressing for the whole salad because I don't like it too oily.  Add more or less according to taste.
Then add salt to taste as well.

Fix yourself a bowl.

This salad is so good, Lilly pulled a chair up to the counter while I was taking pictures and helped herself. 
In my house, you could not ask for a better endorsement.
The 3 year old crowd can be very hard to please.

If you want to make this a more substantial meal, you can simply add some chicken breast.
I baked a bone-in, skin-on breast and shredded some of the meat into the salad.
It is phenomenal.
And, since I'm on the subject, don't use boneless, skinless chicken breast.
If that is what you normally do, try it my way just one time.
The flavor difference is unbelievable.
Mostly because a bone-in, skin=on piece of breast actually has flavor.
And you know a boneless, skinless breast does not.
So trust me, go bake a real chicken breast, not a naked one, and taste the difference.
You'll thank me.

Also, there are lots of ways you could customize this salad with other favorite ingredients.
I thought baked or fried won ton wrappers, crumbled up in the salad would give it a nice crunch.
I couldn't do that because of the gluten, but you could.
Slivered almonds would be good.
Sliced cabbage.
You could add a little soy sauce to the dressing.
Want it spicy?  Add some sliced or diced chili peppers.
Or....what else would you add?

So there you have it, folks.
A no dairy, no soy, no nuts, no egg, no gluten, meal.
And, it actually tastes good.

It's going to be a hot weekend.
We'll be taking this to the beach.
Hope you have something just as good to look forward to.
Love from,


Rainbow Gardens said...

I did know that about Oreos, my middle girl is Lactose Intolerant so we were pleasantly surprised to see that she could have oreos!!!

hennymats said...

Hard to believe it's diet food! Sounds delicious. I usually make one with regular pasta and a peanut dressing but this seems perfect for hot days. We'd add some red bell peppers, they're big around here. Mhhhhh... Need to check my pantry for rice noodles!

Megan B. said...

YUM. If you get your hands on 100% buckwheat soba noodles you should try this salad w/ those, too. I find the nuttiness and heartiness of the soba SO SATISFYING.

betsy_diamond said...

a lot of dark chocolate bars are dairy free. you just have to check the labels. and semi-sweet baking chocolate is dairy free if you really need a chocolate fix. also there are a lot of really decent vegan chocolate bars. i am a chocoholic and also have gone dairy and egg free while nursing. i also make a really mean chocolate mousse-type-frosting with cocoa powder, raw sugar, and coconut creme. coconut creme is fabulous in coffee as a sub for half and half. i've found i like it much better than soy or almond milk because it has the fattiness that makes it more like half-n-half. great salad recipe, and i love reading your blog. :)

Laura said...

that looks delicious & perfect for super hot days! enjoy your time at the beach!

Kim said...

This looks so good! I'm thinking I have our Saturday lunch figured out!!

meg + andy said...

This sounds FABULOUS. I've been in a recipe rut for awhile but i always, always crave fresh asian food. yay, now i'm excited for dinner tomorrow. ;)
Oh, and by they way, i love your blog- its so refreshing! thanks for sharing life with us all.

farmgirl said...

Greta, I love you! I have all those veggies in my garden right now... and I happen to have a pack of rice noodles in the pantry I bought on a whim but didn't know what to do with! We are having this for dinner this weekend! It looks so yummy and refreshing. Thank you!

Lisa said...

this does look tasty...definitely in the future menu folder :)

your food adventures are turning out really good for the rest of us!!heehee