Two cooks cooking were two cooks camping this past weekend. It was our third annual weekend camping trip with two of our best friends. A few things made this weekend different from all the other weekends:
1. We usually go over Labor Day weekend. This weekend was much hotter.
2. This year our hike to a mountain peak somehow turned into an 8 mile hike/nature trail around the state park.
3. We decided since both couples love to cook that maybe this year we could eat something more than just hot dogs/tofu dogs, BBQ potato chips and s’mores.
At first we thought: “What could possibly be better than a weekend of burgers and s’mores??” What more could any one camper want, really? But eventually we jumped on the band wagon, labored over deciding what to bring, and came up with banana bread for breakfast and our favorite cold peanut noodle salad for dinner.
We made Smitten Kitchen’s recipe a while back and adored it. But like the good little aspiring chefs that we are, we have since made it multiple times with various stripped down versions to figure out exactly what flavors and consistency we like. The camping trip version took all of these previous experiments into account. We almost scanned in the piece of paper with all our notes, amended proportions, and food stains. Instead, here goes a more legible version.
Cold Peanut and Sesame Noodle Salad
(Serves 8 as a side dish or 4 as a vegetarian entree)
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup water
4 tbsp tamari
3 tbsp roasted sesame oil
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp chili oil
1 tbsp sriracha sauce
3 cloves garlic
1 package soba noodle (9.5 ounces)
1/2 red pepper
1/2 yellow pepper
1/2 package of firm tofu (this is optional)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup whole peanuts (mashed later)
Start by boiling a pot of water for the soba noodles. Prep the vegetables while the water comes to a boil. Slice the cucumber in very thin rounds and then halve the rounds. Slice the peppers length-wise into very thin strips and then halve the strips. Slice the white and light green parts of the scallions into thin rounds. Cube the tofu into small pieces. We like when the tofu falls apart in the salad.
Next prep the peanut sauce — this is best if made in a food processor. Really, this sauce is stupidly easy. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in the food processor and blend. Our version of the sauce has some heat thanks to the chili oil and sriracha sauce, but it would be easy to cut back on the spice by adding more tamari, sesame oil and perhaps a little honey the way Smitten Kitchen suggests.
Dunk the soba noodles in the boiling water. Note the word dunk. Luckily Zach has enough Japanese left that he managed to read the writing on the package which suggested a 2 minute cook time. Soba noodles are super easy to over cook. We cooked them for just under 2 minutes and they were the perfect consistency.
The part that takes patience (Zach had to do this) is combining all of the ingredients. Use a big bowl, because it is more than it sounds and mix everything together (except the peanuts, scallions, and sesame seeds, which we will address next).
Put the 1/2 cup of peanuts in a thick ziploc bag and mash. Sadly we don’t have a kitchen mallet… sigh… but we do have a muddler thanks to a fabulous birthday gift and so we used that. It worked well enough. Add the mashed peanuts, scallions, and sesame seeds to the mixture, but reserve about 1/3 of each to sprinkle on the top. It really does look pretty that way.
Serve cold and enjoy.
Both the camping trip and the noodle salad were successful endeavors. The noodle salad survived in our cooler longer than we did in our tents, but that’s another, slightly embarrassing story. That said, the banana bread, with tweaked proportions, was delicious regardless of whether it was eaten on a picnic bench or on queen beds (see said slightly embarrassing story).
1. Make sure tent is completely zipped at all times.
2. Not all trail markings are created equal (some mean to reverse directions).
3. Camping is a very cheap vacation if it doesn’t include a one-night hotel stay.