Cold Sesame Noodle Salad with Tahini Honey Dressing / by Chelsea Zwieg

I am someone who unabashedly adores hot food. Me and soup remain tight all summer long, I continue to order my hot Starbucks drinks straight through the hottest days of August and the whole no-one-wants-to-cook-when-it's-warm-out-all-ovens-off-till-fall-thing kind of bums me out. But every now and then, especially as it just starts to get warm out, there is something so refreshing (and easy!) about a cold heap of something delicious. I'm guessing that the person who invented pasta salad had a similar revelation while eating a big ol' bowl of spaghetti and sweating on a level similar to this. When that cold food mood hits, it demands things like crisp, crunchy veggies, cold, chewy noodles and bright tangy dressings.

Sesame oil has been on heavy rotation in my cooking for a while (put it on popcorn! do it.), but somehow I have not used tahini all that much. Such. a shame. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds. Think peanut butter, but sesame. It's often used in hummus but can be used in so many things from baking, to soup to dressings to add a nutty, sesame flavor and creamy consistency. Here I used it with rice vinegar in a bright, tangy dressing along with some honey for sweetness, sesame oil (obvi), garlic and a little bit of soy sauce.

The dressing goes perfectly with the other components of the bowl. Cool, slippery rice noodles, cucumber, radishes and the beauty queen of spring, asparagus. You can add any other crunchy veggies you have on hand (carrots and tahini are bffs) or substitute any noodles that you prefer. Udon noodles will give a chewier texture, soba noodles give a deep savory/buckwheat flavor and ramen will give a softer, more delicate texture. You can also just use up extra thin spaghetti that you have on hand Although shopping in the Asian noodle section is way more fun. To finish off the bowls, I added diced avocado and a seven minute egg  right before serving. To make it even more of a meal, some leftover chicken or fish (salmon? shrimp?) would be great tossed in with the noodles. 

Tomorrow you might see me eating chili and drinking hot coffee, but today this hit the spot in a major way. 

Cold Sesame Noodle Salad with Tahini Honey Dressing

Serves 4-6

Note: This dressing makes a pretty generous amount in proportion to the salad. I like a lot of it on there, but if you like a lighter amount of dressing you may not use it all. But don't worry! It's just begging to be added to your salads for the rest of the week. 

| Ingredients

For the salad: 

  • 8 oz. brown rice noodles, or any thin pasta that you like the most (I used these
  • 1 lb. asparagus, trimmed 
  • 1 large cucumber, thinly sliced or julienned 
  • 1 small bunch radishes, thinly sliced or julienned
  • A few handfuls fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds (I like A LOT of seeds going on, you definitely can scale it back if that's not your thing)
  • 1 avocado, diced (optional)
  • 4-6 soft boiled eggs (optional)

For the dressing: 

  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (about 1 tsp.)
  • 1 tbsp. tahini
  • 2 tsp. honey

| Instructions

To make the dressing, whisk vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and garlic in a small bowl until emulsified. Add the tahini and honey and whisk until completely combined.

Cook noodles according to the package directions. When they are finished cooking, drain and run them under cold water to stop them from cooking further and getting mushy. 

Bring 8 cups water to a boil in large pot. Add asparagus and boil until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain asparagus and run under cold water until completely chilled. You can also put them in an ice bath but I would do anything to avoid a confrontation with my ice tray, so I just stick them under the faucet. 

Once the asparagus have cooled, cut stalk into smaller pieces (I chopped of the tips and then sliced the spears thinly on a diagonal, but you can really choose your own adventure. Any shape works.) In a large bowl, add asparagus, cucumbers, radishes, cilantro and sesame seeds to the noodles. Toss to combine. 

If serving immediately, add dressing to taste (you might not need all of it) and toss to coat. Top with avocado, soft boiled eggs and additional sesame seeds, if desired.