Recent familial circumstances have initiated an interest in the notion of a "heart healthy" lifestyle in the Trash Salad kitchen. I realize I'm very late to the party when it comes to focusing on low-sodium/sat fat foods, but I do so love my salty cheeses and cured pork products. So it's something I didn't really want to think about until, you know, I had to. Which by proxy, I do now.
Did you know that February is American Heart Month? I really admire the PR person who came up with this cleverly timed public-awareness opportunity. The AHA website has lots of interesting and accessible articles about nutrition, exercise, and warning sign recognition as well as a great risk calculator for the scientists among us who need to slap a number on a situation in order for it to become a reality.
Nutritionally, this is going to be an ongoing research product on my part, and something rather new for me since I've only ever paid attention to calorie and fiber counts on nutrition labels (what? I'm still under 30 and more concerned with short term impacts). From what I can gather so far, salt and animal fats are no bueno, though I'm sure there is more nuanced information to be gleaned here.
The Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad recipe from Serious Eats jumped out at me as a good entry point into vegan heart-healthy cooking since it has a LOT of flavor, little of which is added from salt. The original recipe as written had such a kick, I needed a box of tissues nearby to plug the nasal faucet. And this was for someone who finds eggs benedict unsatisfactory without a healthy dose of Sriracha. So take it easy with the chili sauce at first, and maybe cut back on the hot peppers if you're especially sensitive.
Otherwise I made it a little more ingredient-flexible and you can certainly mix up the vegetables for whatever you have on-hand. For a full meal, this would be great topped with grilled tofu or chicken. Pretty great actually for my first consciously-vegan effort, and I can't believe I'm actually looking forward to more in the future.
Spicy Peanut Noodle Vegetable Salad
Adapted from Serious Eats
Serves 4-6 as a main (much larger than pictured here), 8-10 as a side
Total time: 30-45 minutes (all active)
While you are chopping the vegetables, cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside while you make the dressing.
- 8 oz (225g) dried noodles (I used rice noodles here, but you could substitute any including linguini/spaghetti, whole wheat or otherwise)
- The dressing:
- 1/2 cup (135g) chunky natural peanut butter (natural meaning one ingredient, no salt/sugar/fillers added, substitutions include tahini, sunflower seed butter, or any nut butter [just check the ingredients])
- 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1-3 tablespoons chili garlic paste (or Sriracha or other chili sauce with one clove of minced garlic, just check the sodium levels), more or less to taste
- juice from 2 limes (about 2-3 tablespoons) or rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, honey, or maple syrup
- a few tablespoons warm water (optional)
- The vegetables:
- 2 large red, orange, or yellow bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
- 1 large cucumber, sliced into thin half moons
- 1-2 large handfuls mung bean sprouts
- 1-2 large handfuls of fresh basil, mint, or cilantro leaves
- 5-10 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 jalapeño peppers, seeds and ribs removed, minced
- 1/2 cup (50-80g) roughly chopped nuts for garnish (optional)
In small bowl, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, chili sauce, lime juice, sesame seed oil, and sugar. Whisk until homogeneous and add a splash of warm water if the mixture seems too thick. Taste the sauce and adjust accordingly (depending on how juicy your limes are, you may need to add more sugar here).
Add noodles to a large bowl and pour over the small bowl of sauce. Add bell peppers, cucumber, bean sprouts, basil leaves, scallions, and jalapeños. Toss to combine. Serve topped with chopped nuts, if using.