`Sesame' noodles delight

DINNER TONIGHT

Peanut sauce enlivens recipe and adds zing

August 11, 2004|By Bill Daley | Bill Daley,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Sometimes the simplest dishes raise the most fuss. So it is with cold sesame noodles. For years I toiled without success to find just the right zing, only to find the answer not in pricey tahini (sesame-seed pastes) but in plain old peanut butter.

Admittedly, the peanut butter in question wasn't Skippy or Jif. Rather it was a high-quality, all-natural product. And it was jazzed up by the late Barbara Tropp, a San Francisco author and restaurateur, with plenty of raw garlic, sugar and hot red chile paste. I was addicted at first bite.

Tropp was often called the Julia Child of Chinese food for her ability to soothe, encourage and educate novice cooks. Her recipe for a Sichuan-style peanut sauce from The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking offered no obstacles: Everything is whirred in the food processor until smooth.

Her peanut sauce is great over cold poached chicken or used as a dip for grilled shrimp. I like it best stirred into cold, cooked noodles and topped with a handful of finely chopped green onion.

I love to serve these noodles with a cold asparagus salad and perhaps a grilled tenderloin of pork glazed with soy sauce and various Asian spices. Follow with coconut or green tea ice creams.

Tips:

Make the peanut sauce hours in advance to allow flavors to bloom.

Run the cooked pasta under cold water, toss lightly to dry, then lightly oil the strands with toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking together.

`Sesame' Noodles With Spicy Peanut Sauce

Makes 6 servings

Preparation time: 10 minutes; cooking time: 20 minutes

10 cloves garlic

1/2 cup each: all-natural peanut butter, soy sauce

5 tablespoons sugar

1 to 2 tablespoons hot chile oil

1/2 teaspoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

1 pound spaghetti, cooked according to package directions, cooled

2 green onions, chopped

Mince the garlic in a food processor, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Add peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, chile oil and rice wine. Puree 1 minute.

Put the spaghetti in a large bowl; top with sauce. Mix until the pasta strands are evenly coated. Garnish with green onions.

-- The sauce recipe is adapted from "The Modern Art of Chinese Cooking," by Barbara Tropp.

Per serving: 470 calories; 14 grams fat; 2.7 grams saturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 70 grams carbohydrate; 17 grams protein; 1,626 milligrams sodium; 4.8 grams fiber

-- Analysis courtesy of the Chicago Tribune, a Tribune Publishing newspaper

Menu:

"Sesame" noodles

Asparagus salad

Green tea or coconut ice cream

Gewurztraminer or home-brewed iced tea

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