A beginning and an end

Two days ago, I said goodbye to my first apartment, my first (and only) roommate, and my first kitchen.

Now, I’m curled up on the futon in my new place, sipping Gatorade and finally feeling that I’ve moved in. Which is not to say I’m unpacked or that my life is actually in order. My walls are fetchingly decorated with flags of blue painters tape, I’m using a cardboard box as an end table, and I don’t have hot water. But tonight I ate something (with vegetables! not pizza!) that came from my new kitchen, and things just sort of settled.

It’s the choking kind of hot outside, the kind of heat where you open the door and it snatches your breath and falls over you like a damp, steaming blanket. So, a night for assembly, not for cooking. A night for cold soba noodles, slicked with peanut dressing and sharp with puckery lime, spicy radish, and sweet, crunchy carrots. The kind of night that needs nothing more than a few slices of tomato showered with salt, pepper, and basil.

It’s appropriate that we start our journey together here, with the intersection of two of my childhood favorites – noodles and vegetables – on this, the first real night in my new apartment. Here’s to new beginnings.

Cold Noodles with Peanut-Citrus Sauce
From Orangette, by Molly Wizenberg

For the sauce:
1/2 cup well-stirred natural peanut butter, the kind that only has peanuts and salt in it
1.5 tsp. soy sauce
1 small clove of garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. sriracha or other hot sauce
1/2 tsp. chili-garlic sauce
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. water

For the noodles:
1/2 lb soba noodles*
3 red radishes, sliced very thin
1 large carrot, sliced very thin on the bias
1 head baby bok choy, sliced in 1/4 inch ribbons
basil, torn or in chiffonade, for garnish

Let’s get started with the sauce. In a bowl large enough to hold all the noodles and veggies, combine all the sauce ingredients and whisk until it stops looking all curdled and weird. Give it a taste and adjust it to your liking. For example, I used a full teaspoon of the chili-garlic paste and added a pinch of cayenne pepper because A) I was out of sriracha and B) I wanted a little more spice.

While you’re making the sauce, put a pot of salted water on to boil. When it’s ready, add the soba, drop the heat to a simmer, and cook the noodles according to the package directions. Be sure to keep an eye on things because they cook fast!

When the noodles are al-dente (that is, completely cooked through, but with enough resistance to be pleasantly chewy), drain them in a colander and then immediately rinse them in cold running water. Be sure to pick up little handfuls of the noodles and comb them through your fingers under the water. This serves two purposes: it cools the noodles and rinses off much of the starch coat so the noodles don’t stick together later.

Shake the excess water out of the noodles and dump them in the bowl with the dressing. Smoosh everything around with a couple of forks until the noodles are evenly coated with the dressing, then throw in all the veggies and toss them around until everything is nicely combined. If you want, you can sprinkle the whole dish with basil before you serve.

*Molly Wizenberg notes in her blog that this recipe makes slightly too much sauce for 1/2 a pound of noodles, and recommends trying something between 10 oz. and 3/4 lb. I can’t speak to this – I made a whole batch of dressing, but only made enough noodles and veggies for a single serving so I just added dressing to my heart’s content.

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