Being a freelancer and working from home most of the time can get a little lonely. Nobody to discuss ideas with, drink coffee or gossip. Little feedback too: I send my articles out into the world or give a lecture and seldom hear anything about whether they made any difference, however small. That is why I cherish every email from a reader who tells me that after reading my article they tried growing vegetables in a polyculture or stopped digging or cleared a weedy site with carton mulch. I also love the rare occasions for more personal interactions. Last Saturday was our annual open garden day. There are about 10 very different gardens in Hengelo participating and normally we open our backyard edible forest. But this year our neighbors are building a new shed which means there’s a scaffolding in our garden and the access is a little complicated. That’s why I decided to open the community garden instead.
It was so nice to talk to all the lovely people who came and occasionally see someone’s eyes light up with “hey, I can do that in my backyard too!”. Unlike when we first started opening our garden some six years ago, there has been a shift and many of the visitors have already heard about permaculture and are interested in seeing it in action. The highlight of the day for me though was an elderly gentleman from Austria complimenting me what a charming host I were – just too bad I was a vegetarian!
The weather continues to be quite warm and in the kitchen I veer towards light meals with bright flavors. This noodle salad is both: rice noodles and early summer vegetables, marinated in orange juice, vinegars and ginger and sesame seed oil, topped with spicy cashews. I was a little wary of the amount of dark sesame oil in the marinade because of its strong flavor, but it was perfect.
The recipe has many ingredients and several steps but none of them really difficult. For the flavor to develop, the noodles and vegetables need some time to marinate, so you can make it in advance.
You can simplify things by not making the spicy nuts yourself and using store bought roasted peanuts instead, but they are easy to make and keep for weeks in a sealed container.
Also: if you think that cutting all the vegetables into thin matchsticks is too much work, I completely understand. Slicing them thinly will work too, although they are more difficult to mix with the thin rice noodles.
We grow a yellow podded snow pea variety called “Golden Sweet” which is extremely productive. The yellow peas are also easy to spot on the plant which is a plus since you need to pick the peas regularly to stimulate the plant to produce more.
This recipe was featured on NoshOn.It among 14 great summer salads you can take on a picnic so head over there for more inspiration.
Chinese rice noodle salad with citrus and snow peas
Adapted from Annie Somerville: Fields of Greens
zest of 1 orange
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 1 ½ oranges)
2 tbsp grated ginger
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
5 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp sherry vinegar
½ cup dark sesame seed oil
1 ½ tbsp sugar or honey
¼ tsp salt
Using a zester remove the thread from the orange in long threads or use a vegetable peeler to peel long strips of the rind (without the bitter white pith) and slice the strips into thin threads. Set aside to use later. Combine the rest of the ingredients and puree in a blender (or, as I do, with a hand held mixer). Reserve about 60 ml (¼ cup) of the marinade for the vegetables.
15 g (½ ounce) fresh ginger
2 medium sized carrots, sliced into thin matchsticks
120 g (4 ounces) snow peas (also called mangetout), sliced into thin matchsticks
250 g thin rice noodles
2 scallions, both white and green parts, thinly sliced on diagonal
1 bunch radishes, top and tailed, sliced into thin matchsticks (or thin rounds)
3 tbsp coarsely chopped parsley (or cilantro)
1 tsp hot pepper flakes
½ cup spicy cashew or peanuts (recipe below)
Peel the ginger, slice into thin coins and then slice the coins into very thin threads. Set aside.
Bring water to boil in a large pan. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt and drop the sliced carrots and peas into the boiling water for just 30 seconds to blanch them. Use a strainer to scoop them out and rinse under cold water to stop the boil, drain well.
Add the noodles to the pot of boiling water and cook until just tender (this takes just about 4 minutes). Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water.
In a small bowl, toss the carrots, peas, scallions and radishes together.
In a large bowl, combine the noodles with half of the vegetables, the marinade, ginger, orange peel, parsley and hot pepper flakes. Toss the remaining vegetables with the reserved marinade. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes.
To serve, top the noodles with the reserved vegetables and garnish with some parsley and spicy cashews.
Spicy cashews or peanuts
The recipe makes more than you need for the salad. The nuts will keep for weeks in a sealed container.
125 g (1 cup) cashews or peanuts
½ tsp olive oil
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp salt
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius (325 F). In a small bowl, toss the nuts with the oil, spices and salt. Spread them on a baking sheet lined with parchment and roast until they smell nutty, for about 12 minutes. Cool and store in a sealed container.