"Ice-cold noodles are starchy and often mushy—not the best combination of textures," he told me in an email. "And chilled sauces are never as flavorful as when they’re at room temperature."
But in true Bittman fashion, he's found a brilliant workaround. "It’s a fact that light, satisfying noodle salads are the ideal summer meal. So my solution is to serve what essentially is a hot dish after it cools down a bit," he said.
Enter the "Noodle Salad" section of his newly released cookbook, Dinner for Everyone. Like the rest of the book, it offers three takes on a dish type: one easy, one vegan, and one "all out." In this case, respectively, a 15-minute peanut bun laced with chopped chiles and topped with nine-minute eggs, a gingery noodle salad that treats snow peas as they should be treated (as stars), and a Vietnamese bean thread salad with shrimp and chicken. Each is at its best at room temperature.
Dinner for Everyone is the latest of 20-plus cookbooks authored by Bittman, who recently launched digital food magazine Heated.
"I’m often completely spontaneous in the kitchen, which takes practice and a willingness to serve something that may not be perfect," he said. "I want my readers to succeed, but also to be able to cook like I cook. So the recipes in Dinner for Everyone are based on dishes I make when I wing it, but refined to be as close to guaranteed as possible."
And riffs are more than welcome. "Variations have long been my thing," he said. "There are lots of ways to take the recipe ingredients beyond these."
"With the gingery noodle salad, cutting the vegetables in thin strips and then flash-cooking them is the key technique for ultimate twirling. So go ahead and use carrots, Asian greens, or other sturdy vegetables the same way." (Note: We even tried this with mostly whole snow peas, and it was still excellent.)
All Out: Vietnamese Bean Thread Salad with Shrimp and Chicken
"And the lesson in the Vietnamese bean thread salad is to use cooking liquid as a way to build flavor. Whether you decide to cook squid instead of shrimp or pork instead of chicken, you’re going to end up with beautifully seasoned bean threads, before you even dress them."
What's your favorite way to riff on a noodle salad? Let us know in the comments.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).
Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.