A week ago there was a cool, crisp change in the breeze. Right on cue, the weather fell in line with the calendar as if Labor Day was, in fact, the end of summer and the beginning of fall. Oh, it was lovely.
Well, that lasted about three days. Yesterday New York saw a high of 94°F. Seattle hit 93°F, for crying out loud.
Instead of getting creative with winter squash (which is ripe and ready to eat) I’m dipping into my height-of-summer repertoire and making everybody’s favorite Americanized Thai-ish dish: soba noodles with spicy peanut sauce. Not only because it’s delicious, but it actually cools you down, thanks to the heat of the chile.
We all know that the human body’s air conditioning system kicks in by way of sweat. You overheat, you sweat, you cool off. A simple trick to jumpstart this reaction is to eat something spicy. Your body is fooled into thinking it’s on fire and turns its AC on high. It’s the reason spicy food and hot climates go hand-in-hand the world over.
For one last summer hurrah, throw this together with whatever substitutes you have in your pantry. A more traditional version might have rice vinegar and sugar, but I’ve used cider vinegar and maple because it’s what I’ve got. Just have fun with it and try to enjoy the heat one last time.
Cool-Down Soba Noodles With Spicy Peanut Sauce, Radishes, and Cucumbers
12 ounces soba noodles
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 dried whole red chile
1 medium cucumber
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
Cook the soba in a pot of boiling water until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the soba then rinse under cold running water until cool.
Puree the 3/4 cup water in a blender with the peanut butter, soy, vinegar, maple syrup, ginger, garlic and chile. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the soba with the peanut sauce. Peel, seed and thinly slice the cucumber, then thinly slice the radishes and scallions. Stir the cucumber into the soba and serve topped with the radishes, scallions, and cilantro.