Asian inspired peanut-y sesame ginger pasta salad
You don’t need this recipe for pasta salad. That is, one of many brilliant aspects of salad is the versatile, no-brainer assembly. You can put just about anything you like in them, your pasta can be gluten-free or not, and in fact you don’t even actually need pasta. But I need to share this peanut sauce with you.
It can be almond sauce, if you’d prefer. Probably even sun-butter. One day, I swear I’m going to play around with a variation using tahini, only I’m afraid said “variation” will really be a tahini dressing that, while yummy, isn’t so much riff as departure.
This peanut sauce, though. I first made it when I was creating this salad for Ancient Harvest two years ago, and since I use it all the time. It works in wraps, in spring rolls, as dressing, with stir-fries and noodle bowls. It’s the glue that brings it all, whatever “it” is, together.
My brain has been throwing that phrase back at me a lot lately (about the glue). Recently I’ve been expanding my writing work in a fulfilling, productive way that still allows the greatest flexibility I could hope for, maximizing time with the not-so-Little Monkey. Just enough to remind me in those woebegone moments flung from who knows where, I’m still me and I can grow and be resilient as simply me. Because so much of what’s best in life right now is dependent on one very important center outside of myself.
Lately, beyond the narrow, scheduled borders of work, workouts, and the tornado fillers of rushing around the house in a mad dash of chores, most of my hours are spent in a playful in-between place of play that can be idle and exhausting, vibrant and trying. Often this play includes a special crew:
Monk/Lil’ Monk/Monkey, Charlie, Fuzzy Charlie, Rackanooey (not sure how to spell), and the Croc…these stuffed toys are a bundle of fun. They were “The Buddies”, then “The Boys”, sometimes “The Girls”, and this week they’re “The Guys”. I love the way “The Guys” are fun-loving, and wonderfully engaged in exploring problem-solving with role play. We navigate countless topics and fears with them. They also love to sing and dance. Sometimes in the process my head starts to pound with the achy knowledge of the to-do list in the background. But I’m sooo going to miss these days.
Sometimes I remember that I used to and still love doing plenty of different things, all by myself. Always I realize, I wouldn’t be spending so much of my life this way as just me, by choice: sitting on the floor negotiating what the reaction should be to a line of stuffed animals taking it in turns to do a poo poo on the carpet. Usually, “Dr. Felix” ruthlessly administers powerful shots to each poor creature. Often “Chef Felix” takes over concocting remedies of plastic vegetable soup (unfortunately, sometimes this turns out to be contaminated with throw-up). Whatever the outcome, Felix is the key. He’s the glue that holds it all together. He turns plastic into magic and frustration into fun.
Sometimes I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand on my own two feet in whatever new life is around the corner as my Little Monkey needs my physical presence less and less. These days, I tear myself up with fear about everything, mostly how I’ll know how to handle the world and how it will receive my aging self. Then the sunlight shines on the still plump apple cheek and everything feels better again. I can tell myself, the dishes may take different forms; there will still be peanut sauce.
- 1 pound pasta (I like Ancient Harvest's gluten- free black bean & quinoa elbows, and regular pasta, any shape)
- 1/4 cup natural creamy peanut or almond butter
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy or tamari sauce
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon honey (maple syrup for vegan)
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
- 2 carrots, grated or cut julienne
- 1 English cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and sliced
- 4 cups baby spinach, washed
- Toasted sesame seeds for garnish
- Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
- Using a whisk or fork, combine peanut or almond butter, rice vinegar, sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice, honey and ginger in a small bowl and mix until smooth.
- In a large bowl, toss pasta, sauce, and vegetables. Garnish with sesame seeds to serve, slightly warm or chilled.