I love a lazy summer day with trips to the pool and hikes on the shady trails outside of town. But lazy summer days make for treacherous summer evenings as Brian and I race to put together a dinner that uses up as much CSA produce as possible and then shepherd our tired, hot, always hungry children through dinner and tooth-brushing and stories before they melt down. Occasionally we succeed.
So summer dinners for us are all about maximizing the fresh vegetables and minimizing the time it takes to prepare them. This formula isn’t always easy to nail, but I have a winner with this rice noodle salad. The secret is in the sauce. It’s spicy and tangy and sweet, and unites all kinds of vegetables and herbs for a magical, barely cooked summer dinner.
Here, the noodles and sauce are tossed with sautéed mushrooms, chopped spinach, carrots, green onion, and herbs. As the summer lopes along, I plan to try variations with sliced cucumber and bell peppers, shaved fennel and radishes, or sautéed zucchini. Pile on the herbs with abandon and be generous with the sauce. Consider this a template through which you will discover your most favorite, incredibly simple, summer dinner.
Note that this kind of salad is often referred to as a cold rice noodle salad, but I think it’s best at room temperature.
This recipe originally appeared on Food52.
- For the dressing
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 cloves finely minced garlic (about 2 teaspoons)
- 2 teaspoons finely minced chile (I used a serrano here)
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (use a good one – I like Red Boat, for a vegan/vegetarian option, use liquid aminos)
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 6 tablespoons water
- For the salad
- 8 ounces rice noodles
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 6 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, wiped clean, and chopped
- 4 cups chopped spinach
- 4 medium carrots, julienned
- 1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 3 tablespoons minced green onion (from 2 to 3 stalks)
- lime wedges
- To make the dressing, combine lime juice, sugar, garlic, and chile in a small bowl. Whisk in fish sauce, tahini, and water. Taste and add more lime, sugar, or chile as needed. Sauce will keep well covered in the fridge for several days.
- Cook rice noodles to al dente according to package instructions. Drain, rinse well with cold water, and drain again.
- Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil, and then mushrooms and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the prepared dressing. Cook 3 - 5 minutes, or just until the mushrooms are soft.
- To serve, toss cooked noodles with several tablespoons dressing. Toss spinach with a tablespoon of dressing, and set atop noodles. Add carrots, mint, cilantro, and green onion to taste. Top with warm mushrooms, another drizzle of dressing, and a squeeze of lime.