Monday, June 12, 2017

Spicy Peanut Dressing

Don’t cook. Here’s why.

Last weekend I saw the first batch of local summer squash (shout out to New Jerz and your slightly warmer climate) oblong, squat, or slender in a rainbow of buttercup yellow and sage green; sugar snap peas, shelling peas, fava beans; tomatoes large and small. The bounty will continue to amass, accruing peppers, stone fruits, and cucumbers, begetting infinite possibilities in the kitchen. But for me, the time has never been riper to not cook.

By not cook, I mean not heat; rather, enjoy these fruits and vegetables in their raw form. Just yesterday I purchased my first local strawberries and was blown away by how juicy, sweet, and intensely flavorful the pint-sized locals compared to the genetically-altered Driscoll giants. We all know that less food miles equals a fresher foodstuff, rendering it unequivocally superior in taste as well. But in the colder months, when the only options are supermarket produce hailing from other continents, it can be easy to forget just how monumental the flavor gap is. I grew used to my Trader Joe’s sugar snap peas, until they once again became available to me locally. The difference is night and day.

What I ask is simple: take a moment to delight in the vim and vigor of local produce. Even if it’s just cutting a slice of zucchini before it goes into the pan for stir-fry, experience what that difference tastes like.

This Spicy Peanut Dressing is a versatile condiment to relish all vegetables in their uncooked glory. It can live as a summer crudité dipping sauce, a chopped leafy green salad dressing, or the flavor mainstay of cold sesame noodles/zucchini noodles. It is sweet and nutty, spicy and vinegary, and overall, utterly drinkable (spotted: husband consuming sauce by the spoonful out of the jar. I’m only guilty of petty misdemeanor plate-licking). On these 90+ degree days, where the thought of turning on a stovetop burner feels like it might be the final straw to literally melt you into a puddle, pull out this dressing. (It keeps for weeks in the fridge, tripling the recipe is highly recommended). Pair with any variety of cool, crisp vegetables. Rinse, repeat, all throughout summer. 

A few ideas for ingredient combinations (just add protein):
  • Lacinato kale, mint, cucumber, pomegranate seeds
  • Soba noodles, cabbage, carrot , mango, sesame seeds
  • Rice wrappers, cucumber, jicama, bell pepper, scallions
  • Lettuce cups, sweet potato, radish, cilantro 

Spicy Peanut Dressing (from Food52)
Makes 3/4 of a cup; dressing for 4

3 tablespoons smooth natural peanut butter
3 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses or honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes

Mix together all ingredients by hand or in a blender.

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