Here we are, deep in the season of grilling, camping and cabin-tripping, and I’d like to introduce the latest super-flexible addition to my summer side dish rotation: spicy cilantro-lime cold noodles. This is an easy weeknight side or main dish that you can throw together lickity-split with a make-ahead sauce. These noods go great with grilled salmon or a grilled flank steak. They are a potluck fave. I also like them as a base for a noodle bowl topped with some chopped tomatoes, marinated tofu and a fried egg with a soft yolk.
One of the best things about this dish: it travels well. Make the sauce, pour it into a tight-fitting jar and bring it on the road with a package of rice noodles. When you’re ready to prep, just soak the noodles in hot water until they get soft, rinse them in cold water and toss with sauce. Add protein and you’re golden.
A word on heat: I love these noodles when they are hurt-your-mouth spicy. That’s what makes them extra addictive. You can get this effect by adding at least half a jalapeño to the sauce. Jalapeños tend to vary in heat level, so always start conservative and build. I begin with a quarter of a fresh jalapeño, then add more until I reach my desired heat level. On the other end of the spice spectrum, you can get a very subtle kick with a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
Spicy cilantro lime cold noodles
Serves 6 as a side
2 cups roughly chopped cilantro
¾ cup olive oil or avocado oil
½ an avocado
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
Juice of one lime
Up to one fresh jalapeño, seeded, stem removed — you may not use the whole thing — or a teaspoon of red pepper flakes
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
16 ounces spaghetti noodles or thin rice noodles
Garnish with chive blossoms or a sprinkle of fresh chives
In the bowl of a food processor or high-powered blender, combine cilantro, oil, avocado, garlic, lime juice, salt and a conservative amount of jalapeño — start with about a quarter of the pepper. You can also sub the red pepper if you’re not looking for spice. Pulse until smooth. Taste, adjust salt, and add additional thinly sliced pepper and blend if you’d like to increase the heat level. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions and rinse in cold water until the noodles are cool. Toss the noodles with the sauce, garnish with chive blossoms or chopped chives and serve.