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Cold Sesame Noodles with Cucumber

It's January again folks, which means for the next 4 weeks I'll be posting vegan recipes in an attempt to encourage you to add a few more meat-and-dairy-less options into your rotation. Have you heard about Veganuary? It’s a movement that aims to encourage people to try out being vegan for the month of January. I think it’s a great initiative, though a whole month feels like a little much if you're just starting out. I'm a believer in small steps toward achieving a goal instead of major overhauls that likely won't last. How about just trying it out once a week?

Though this recipe makes an excellent summer supper, it can also find a place in the winter months for packed lunches or on a chilly day when you're staying warm and cozy inside. It's light and fresh, easy to make and feeds a crowd (4-5 adults).

Cold Sesame Noodles

14 oz stick dried rice noodles 2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil, plus a splash to loosen noodles 2 Tbsp Chinese sesame paste or tahini 1 Tbsp smooth peanut butter or more tahini is allergic to nuts 3 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce 2 Tbsp Chinese rice vinegar 1 Tbsp granulated or brown sugar 1 Tbsp finely grated ginger 2 tsp minced garlic (from 1 medium-large clove) Chili-garlic paste, to taste 1/2 pound cucumber, very thinly sliced 1/2 cup roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped (optional) A handful of chopped fresh herbs, such as mint and cilantro, for garnish

Cook noodles according to package directions and rinse with cold water to cool. Drain well. Drizzle with a tiny splash of toasted sesame oil to keep them from sticking until dressed.

Meanwhile, whisk sesame paste and peanut butter in the bottom of a small bowl, then whisk in soy sauce, rice vinegar, remaining 2 tablespoons sesame oil, sugar, ginger, garlic and chile-garlic paste to taste until smooth. Adjust flavors to taste. It might seem a bit salty from the bowl, but should be just right when tossed with noodles.

Toss sauce with cold noodles.

Place a medium-sized knot of dressed noodles in each bowl, followed by a pile of cucumber. Garnish generously with peanuts and herbs. Serve with extra chile-garlic or sriracha paste on the side.

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