Thanks to a sultry sesame dressing (and a secret ingredient: water), this salad is creamy despite being vegan and puts other nutty noodle salads to shame. Best of all, it travels well and tastes even better as tomorrow's lunch. Recipe adapted slightly from Fine Cooking magazine. —Genius Recipes
6 as a main dish, 8 to 10 as a side dish
For the sesame dressing
sesame seeds plus 1 tablespoon
medium or 2 large shallots (about 2 ounces total), sliced
large clove garlic, finely chopped
toasted sesame oil
sugar (or to taste -- if making vegan, use cane sugar)
hot chile paste
3/4 to 1 cups
water (or less)
fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
For the noodles:
fresh Chinese egg noodles (sometimes called wonton noodles) or other long thin noodles of your choice
Heat the oven to 350°F. Put the sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven until golden brown and fragrant, 10 to 15 minutes. Be careful not to overcook them. Put the toasted seeds in a blender.
In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil over medium-low heat. Sauté the shallots and garlic until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Add the shallots, garlic, remaining 6 tablespoons peanut oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, and chile paste to the sesame seeds in the blender. Blend on high speed just until a thick, rough paste forms, 2 to 3 minutes. Stop blending when most of the seeds have broken up and been puréed. After the paste forms, it will begin to get oily if you continue to purée it, as the seeds begin to give off their oil. If you have time, refrigerate the purée (for up to a day).
Bring a large pot of unsalted water to a rolling boil. Cook the noodles per package directions. If using fresh Chinese egg noodles, gently fluff the noodles and add them to the water, stirring. Return the water to a boil and cook the noodles for just 10 to 30 seconds. (These tiny fresh noodles don’t need much cooking. If it takes a minute or more for the water to come back to a boil, the noodles will already be done.) Drain the noodles immediately and cool them under cold running water. Drain well. Put the cold noodles in a bowl and toss with 3 tablespoons peanut oil.
When ready to dress the noodles, drain off any oil that has gathered on the top of the purée. Whisk about 3/4 cup water into the purée to thin it and to reach a creamy consistency; the sauce will lighten in color and become emulsified; add more water as needed. Add the chopped cilantro to the sauce.
In a large bowl, toss the noodles with about half the dressing. Add the snow peas, red pepper, and daikon, and toss to combine (using your hands is easiest). Add more dressing if you like. Put the noodles in a large serving bowl or on individual plates. Garnish with the cilantro leaves, chopped peanuts, and sliced scallions, or pass little bowls of the garnishes at the table.
Genius recipes surprise us and make us rethink cooking tropes. They're handed down by luminaries of the food world and become their legacy. They get us talking and change the way we cook. And, once we've folded them into our repertoires, they make us feel pretty genius too. Watch for new Genius Recipes every Wednesday morning on our blog, dug up by Food52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore.