Cold Noodles with Sesame or Peanut Sauce
A crowd-pleaser and an easy starter or side—or a main course on a hot day. To make it more substantial, add 1/2 cup or so of small tofu cubes or cooked soybeans. Or top each serving with a few slices of grilled, roasted, or poached chicken. The cucumber adds nice crunch and freshness to what is otherwise a pretty dense dish.

Cold Noodles with Sesame or Peanut Sauce

Yield: 2 main-course or 4 side-dish or appetizer servings Time: 30 minutes
1 medium or 2 small cucumbers (optional)
12 ounces fresh Chinese egg noodles or long pasta, like linguine
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1/2 cup tahini, peanut butter, or a combination
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (optional)
1 tablespoon rice or white wine or other vinegar
Hot sesame oil or Tabasco sauce to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
At least 1/2 cup chopped scallion for garnish
  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Peel the cucumbers if you’re using them, cut them in half lengthwise, and, using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Cut the cucumber into shreds (you can use a grater for this) and set aside.
  2. Cook the noodles in the boiling water until tender but not mushy. Meanwhile, whisk together the sesame oil and tahini, sugar, soy, ginger, vinegar, hot oil, and pepper in a large bowl. Thin the sauce with hot water until it’s about the consistency of heavy cream; you will need 1/4 to 1/2 cup. Stir in the cucumber. When the pasta is done, drain it and run the pasta under cold water. Drain.
  3. Toss the noodles with the sauce and cucumbers. Taste and adjust the seasoning (the dish may need salt), then garnish with the scallion and serve.