The table is set and from each dish a thin column of steam playfully swirls upward before fading from sight. Anticipation builds as guests seated around the table lift forks to their mouths and take their first bites. The moment of truth! Will they like it? Will they think the food is tasty?
Taste is indeed the name of the game when it comes to cooking and entertaining. But what makes a tasty dish? Some people say we “taste” things first with our eyes and our noses, so a dish that looks and smells good has an advantage when it comes to taste. Then there are the 5 tastes picked up by receptors on our tongues—sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. What makes things interesting is that because of genetics, age, and various other factors, the concentration of taste receptors on our tongues are all different, so taste preferences tend to vary from person to person.
Graham and I think that our tongues must be covered in sweet receptors, because our sweet tooth gets the best of us more than we care to admit. Despite our penchant for sweets, we also like spicy food too, and we will try to explore a variety of flavors in future posts. And we hope our creations get a high “Tasty” rating more often than not!
Our first dish is an old standby in our house. The first time I made it was for Graham when we started dating (one of the dishes that won him over I’m sure). I’ve made it again several times for dinners with friends and for potlucks and have always gotten rave reviews. The noodles have a sweet, salty, and peanut flavor, with a little kick of spice. The crisp vegetables add a nice contrast to the creamy peanut sauce and the dish finishes with a hint of fresh green onion and cilantro flavor.
Spicy Peanut Noodles
Adopted from the April 2006 edition of Vegetarian Times
8 oz noodles*
1 red bell pepper
1 cucumber (English or seeds removed)
4 green onions
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1½ tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce1 tablespoon brown sugar
1-2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
1/4 cup water
Cook noodles according to directions on package and allow them to cool.
Slice green onions into small rounds and cut pepper and cucumber into thin strips. Add vegetables to cooled noodles.
In a separate bowl, mix peanut butter, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, and chili garlic sauce. Mixture should have a paste like consistency. Add water little by little until the consistency of the mixture is more like a thin pudding or cream.
Pour sauce over noodles and vegetables, add cilantro and mix well. Serves 3-4.
* I’ve used all sorts of different noodles for this dish. The ones pictured are whole-wheat spaghetti noodles, because that is what we had in our cupboard. I think for this dish, we both prefer plain linguini noodles to the whole-wheat noodles though, even though they are indeed more healthy…Oh, the tradeoffs!