Monday, April 27, 2009

How to Pack a Salad/Salad With Rice Noodles, Tofu, Cilantro, and Peanut Sauce

Salad makes a great lunch, but I hate handing over $8 any time I want fresh greens on a work day. So, I saved one of those nifty plastic bowls from a local salad shop, and have been using it to carry my own homemade blends of veggies to work.

I've come up with the following method for layering a salad that will travel to work:

*Pour the dressing in the bottom of the bowl.
*Next, add ingredients that will not get soggy in dressing - for example, diced carrots, bell peppers, cucumber, apples, cabbage, red onion, olives, beans or walnuts.
*If you are using diced or crumbled cheese, add it next. Noodles work well at this stage, too.
*Finally, add the veggies that would get soggy if they sat in dressing (lettuce, spinach, herbs).
*Add-ins like baked tofu, falafel, or tortilla chips can be wrapped separately and mixed in at lunchtime.

This week's salad features rice noodles, tofu, cilantro, bell peppers, and red onion in a spicy peanut sauce (which can be more or less spicy depending on the amount of red pepper flakes used). It requires a little advance work (cooking the rice noodles, baking the tofu, and assembling the peanut sauce) but, once prepped, these ingredients can be used all week. I prefer to chop my veggies each night, but that could be done in advance, too.

I didn't have them this time, but chopped peanuts would make a great topping.

1 batch baked tofu, cooled
1 batch peanut sauce (see below), cooled
4 ounces rice noodles, prepared per package instructions, drained, rinsed in cold water, and set aside
2 red or orange bell peppers, washed and diced
2 cups cabbage, washed and thinly slivered
10 cups of greens (I used a lettuce/spinach blend), washed
1/4 red onion, washed and thinly slivered
1 bunch cilantro, washed

For each salad:

Pour 1/4 cup peanut sauce in the bottom of the bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon red onion, 1/3 cup bell peppers, and 1/3 cup cabbage.
Add about 1/2 cup chopped rice noodles.
Top with 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, and 2 cups chopped greens.
Close container.
Separately pack the tofu.

Peanut Sauce Ingredients
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (I like the fresh ground peanuts from the health food store)
Dash red pepper flakes
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoons ginger, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/3 cup soy sauce
3/4 cup water

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a sauce pan over medium heat until the sauce is smooth.
Bring the sauce to a light simmer.
Let the sauce simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat for about 10-15 minutes, whisking occasionally, until it thickens to the consistency of gravy.