Peanut power

I've had to give up spicy foods for a while, and it's seriously been cramping my style. I'm one of those add-spicy-chili-peppers-to-everything sort of people, and the fact my special Tinian-grown dried ground chili pepper spice is gathering dust on my shelf, is a sign of some sort of relapse in my character, or maybe I'm just listening to my body these days.

In an effort to find new taste sensations, I've discovered the amazing power of a good peanut sauce. Not the supermarket peanut butter stuff we grew up with... No, like really good organic, roasted, no-salt peanut butter you can find at your local snobby grocer, or hippy market. The combination of said peanut butter mixed with soy sauce, a few grinds of pepper (I'm using white here), and a light squeeze of lemon juice is just sublime. I've been eating this sauce with cold noodles almost daily. Totally addicting, and a good dish for these hot Summer days!

Cold Noodle Salad with Sauteed Lentils and Peanut Sauce
(makes 1 generous serve)
- 1 pack of dried bean thread noodles (but you can use buckwheat, rice or wheat noodles if you like)
- palm full of dried wakame seaweed
- julienned carrots
- sliced purple cabbage (any cabbage will do really)
- chopped cilantro
- sliced scallions
- 1/2 cup of sauteed lentils (recipe below)
- 2 to 3 Tbs peanut sauce (or more if you like! recipe below)
- salt for boiling water
- a dash of oil to toss with cooked noodles
- ground black or white pepper to taste

Soak dried wakame in a small saucepan of cool water and set aside. Make the peanut sauce, then make sauteed lentils thereafter (recipes below). Prepare all the fresh veggies.

Remove the rehydrated wakame from the pot, but do not throw out the liquid. Leave the wakame in a sieve to drain off water. Now add a dash of salt to wakame-infused liquid to season noodle cooking water. Bring to a boil.

Add dried noodles to boiling water, and cook following instructions, or till desired chewiness. Drain and cool down immediately in cold, iced water to stop cooking process. Remove cooled noodles from cold water, and drain well.

Assemble your bowl with cold noodles at the base tossed with a little oil (I'd recommend roasted sesame, grapeseed or olive oil). Top with prepared fresh vegetables, rehydrated wakame seaweed, sauteed lentils and a generous helping of peanut sauce. Feast with your eyes, mix everything together and enjoy!

Sauteed lentils
- 1/2 cup cooked lentils
- 1 clove garlic, sliced thin
- 1 Tbs raw peanuts with skins intact (find these in an Asian market)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 Tbs oil for sauteeing
- salt to taste

Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add peanuts when oil starts to heat, and saute carefully, stirring constantly, as peanuts start to brown. When they start showing a hint of color, add garlic.

When garlic becomes fragrant and starts to lightly yellow. Add cooked lentils and turmeric powder. Add salt to taste, and saute till lentils are warmed through and peanuts and garlic take a lightly browned color (you'll need to keep your eye on them). Set aside to cool to room temp.

Peanut Sauce
- 3 Tbs organic, roasted, no-salt peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- the juice of a 1/4 of a lemon
- water to thin sauce (as little or as much as you need, adjust salt accordingly)
- ground white or black pepper to taste
- salt to taste, if needed

Mix ingredients together, and set aside for at least 15 minutes for flavors to meld. Enjoy over cold noodles, or as a dip for fresh veggies.

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