Have you ever looked in your cupboards and fridge, seen all of your “staple” items and thought, “Ho hum, I’m so _bored_ with it all!”? I found myself facing that very sentiment this week. I knew I had some boneless, skinless chicken breasts which needed to be cooked up or frozen, as well as a metric ton of dry, whole wheat pasta in my cupboard, but I didn’t want to make any of the usual suspects. You know the ones: chicken cacciatore, chicken parmesan, or even just fettucini alfredo with grilled chicken. Don’t get me wrong; all of these are fantastic! But I was really craving something different.
So, I opened up my favourite search engine and started tossing in various staple ingredients I had in-stock and the word “recipe” to see what might come up. I was just looking for new ideas, freak takes on old favourites or just something I hadn’t thought of before. After my fifth or sixth attempt to toss in various search words – which I don’t even recall what they were in the end – I finally stumbled across a blog called Vermont Food and Garden, specifically a post called “Linguini with Peanut Sauce”. Now, I’ve never had Thai food. I understand, from what people have told me, that peanut sauce is a very Thai thing and also a very good thing. I’ve never had it! But looking at the list of ingredients, it sounded delicious and promising. I had spaghetti, not linguini, but it would do, I was sure! Peanut butter? Check. Scallions (green onions)? Check. Garlic, ginger, soy sauce? Check, check and check! I went through the list and realized, “I can make this without stopping by the grocery store!”
First, I doubled the recipe because when I make pasta, I generally make a lot of it. My husband is a big eater, so I thought that I should ensure that we’d have enough for dinner for both of us, lunch the next day, and probably a second dinner, at the very least. I really don’t make spaghetti enough, so I should have realized that cooking the entire box at once would yield a _lot_ of pasta. But hey, lots of leftovers! But even just doubling Kathy’s recipe gave me a lot of peanut sauce. I recommend if this is your first peanut sauce rodeo, to stick to the portion size the author (Kathy) suggests for your first attempt. I’m just lucky that I ended up liking peanut sauce! And her blog post suggests that the sauce will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, so I have some time to use all of the excess sauce before it goes bad.
Now, I must say that I did not remain completely, strictly loyal to her recipe. I didn’t know if I was going to like it. Sure, I like the individual components well enough, but together? I was a bit skeptical. So I really went out on a limb making up a double batch! I didn’t have fresh ginger, so I used ginger paste, which I always have on hand. Instead of garlic powder, I chose minced garlic. I followed the recipe up to this point, substituting where I had do with the garlic and ginger, but I really kept true to Kathy’s recipe initially. Not knowing what it’s supposed to taste like, I have to say that I was impressed! But I felt that for my own palette, it was missing a little something. At her suggestion of not adding more soy sauce but adding salt if needed, I added a pinch of sea salt. But from my understanding, Thai food is about balancing sweet, salty, sour, etc. It was missing sweet, as far as I could tell, as I used unsweetened, unsalted creamy peanut butter. Admittedly, I added 1 Tbsp of liquid honey (keeping in mind that I doubled the recipe, so maybe 1-2 tsp for the batch size she suggests) and that seemed to be perfect!
I have to tell you, tossing whole wheat spaghetti with chopped scallions and cooked frozen peas and the peanut butter sauce was a really exciting thing for me. The peanut smell was divine, getting more intense as it made contact with the hot noodles. I did find it tough to mix at first, so I added a little extra water directly to the pasta with the sauce, just to get it mixed a little better. What a HIT! I served this up with strips of chicken breast meat stir-fried in teriyaki sauce, lemon and garlic, sprinkled with seasme seeds. It was just such a warm, earthy dish, with a touch of sweetness, a touch of heat from the garlic and ginger, and it was so incredibly easy to make. The only thing I would do next time is maybe add a little more ginger and garlic, as Kathy recommends to do to your own level of heat. I don’t care for super-spicy foods, being a “super-taster”, but her portions keep it nice and mild. Granted, fresh ginger might have made the difference in that heat level. Just something to keep in mind.
All told, I would make this recipe again and again. I’ll be adding it to my “usual suspects” list to diversify it a bit more, and will be looking for ways to change it up from time to time. Here’s a thought: what about using it as a dip for chicken and vegetable skewers? YUM!