Monday, March 21, 2016

Cucumber Noodle Salad with Spicy Sweet "Thai" Almond Butter Sauce

    This morning was a perfect example of- it all depends on how you look at things. If it was the middle of January right now, and there were big, fluffy snowflakes falling gently to the ground, I would have thought how lovely. Everything is snowy white and peaceful. But since yesterday was the first day of spring, I thought- really? Snow! No wonder I didn't hear any birds singing this morning. Even they know this sucks.
  Luckily the sun came out and changed my attitude, otherwise I probably would not have made this recipe. I would have curled up on the couch and said forget it. But happily since it is now sunny and spring like, I broke out my spiralizer for the first time this year, and made this salad with a thai inspired nut butter dressing.

     I was inspired to make this after having dinner with my friends Jenna and Jeff on Friday night, when they were nice enough to invite me to their house to join them and Jenna's mother and sister, who were visiting from Maine. I offered to bring something to contribute to the meal, and asked Jenna for ideas. First she suggested  these collard wraps. Which I would have been happy to make, but I didn't know if they were very Mom friendly, since they are vegan and raw. Jenna agreed, and knowing that her mother likes Thai food, suggested Thai lettuce wraps instead. Keeping her mother in mind, and knowing everyone at dinner ate meat, I made Thai meatballs to go in the wraps with a peanut dipping sauce, along with piles of crunchy veggies and tender herbs. They were well received, but I couldn't eat them. I don't eat meat or peanuts, so today I made a version of the sauce with almond butter, and am very happy with the results. 

     My intention was to make lettuce wraps again, like I did Friday night, except without the meat, but they ended up being overstuffed and messy, so I am calling it a salad. You could use less filling and roll them up like a wrap, or you could use the sauce as a dip for summer rolls. Basically you can use it any way you use peanut sauce. I might try it on rice noodles some day, which you are welcome to use here instead of the cucumber noodles. If you do, I recommend adding some cucumber slices to the salad. Their cool clear flavor contrasts nicely with the spicy complexity of the sauce, which is quite sweet from the dates, with a bit of heat from the cayenne, and a pleasant tang from the apple cider vinegar. It's delicious, and I think, very Mom friendly. I wish I had thought of it last Friday.

Spicy Sweet Almond Butter Sauce

2 dates chopped
1/2 c. hot water
1/2c. + 2 T. almond butter
1 small garlic clove chopped (1/2 tsp.)
1T. grated ginger
1T. tamari
2T. +2 tsp. cider vinegar
cayenne to taste-start with a couple of good pinches

In a small bowl add the dates and soak them in the hot water until soft (5 minutes).
Add the rest of the ingredients, and using an immersion blender or small food processor, puree until smooth. Adjust cayenne to taste. If you like a more salty sauce, I suggest adding a bit of sea salt, and not adding more tamari, which tends to get overpowering when there is too much. You could add a bit more vinegar though if you want it more tangy.

Prepare vegetables and herbs for the salad.
Note: if you don't have a spiralizer, that's fine. Just slice the cucumber.

carrots cut into matchsticks or grated
red pepper thinly sliced 
red cabbage thinly sliced or grated
cucumber noodles or slices
scallions thinly sliced
lettuce leaves

chopped cilantro
chopped basil
lime slices (optional)
chopped roasted almonds


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