Today: A salad that will be even better packed up for lunch tomorrow -- with a creamy, yet vegan, sesame dressing. (If you're thinking secret ingredient, you're right!)
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Rare is the salad that holds up on day two. Greens wilt, alliums go afoul, grains get weathered and dry. And improving with age seems out of the question, like asking salad to not be a salad.
So when we find a good one, we should hold it tight, and imprint it on our animal brains as a template to repeat and riff on -- to make our lives easier in all the brown bag lunches, picnics, and potlucks that will come our way.
Here's your next imprint-worthy model for next-day salad success, from chef Patricia Yeo via Fine Cooking. It hinges on a sultry sesame dressing. It's creamy despite being vegan (we'll get to that) and it puts other nutty noodle salads to shame.
Food52er ecrossi, who tipped me off to this recipe, explained our noodle salad problem best: "Most sesame and peanut noodle recipes are a real disappointment. They usually end up with a gloppy, too-sweet dressing that tastes like thinned-out peanut butter." Not this one.
Yeo puts more care into hers -- it might be a little more work than watering down peanut butter, but you won't be sorry you did it.
You'll toast sesame seeds. You'll sauté some shallots and garlic. Then you'll put those into a blender with a little sugar and a few bottled goods -- sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, and chile paste -- from your pantry. This will give you a dark, delicious slurry.
Then, whenever you're ready to dress, you'll whisk in water -- which loosens the sauce, and unlocks the creaminess of the broken sesame seeds.
It's one of those secret miracles of vegan cooking that makes you wish you listened to vegans more -- like nut milks, you get something milky-smooth and richly flavored where you'd least expect it.
Yeo's salad has strips of red pepper, daikon, and snow pea, but you could put in whatever vegetables you want. I can see broccoli and celery in winter, radishes and scapes in spring.
If you've been listening, and you're planning on keeping this salad around for lunch, it helps if they're crudité-like and built to last.
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 ounces) sesame seeds 7 tablespoons peanut oil 3 medium or 2 large shallots (about 2 ounces total), sliced 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil 2 tablespoons soy sauce 1/4 cup rice vinegar 1/4 cup sugar (or to taste -- if making vegan, use cane sugar) 1 teaspoon hot chile paste 3/4 to 1 cup water (or less) 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
For the noodles:
12 ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles (sometimes called wonton noodles) or other long, thin noodles 3 tablespoons peanut oil 1 cup blanched snow peas, thinly sliced 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced 1 cup thinly sliced daikon radish 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves 1/2 cup chopped peanuts 1 cup thinly sliced scallions (cut on the bias on a sharp angle)
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]
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I'm an ex-economist, ex-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."