A Cool Salad for a Hot Night

Sometimes when it’s too hot to cook, it’s too hot to eat.  That’s when my brother makes an ice cream sundae and calls it dinner.  You’ve got your dairy (protein), your eggs (protein), nuts (fiber and protein), he says. Why not?

There are probably at least fifty reasons why ice cream for dinner is not a good idea, but my best, most convincing reason is a crisply chilled, herb and crunchy veggie–packed Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Shrimp. You’ve got your protein, your veggies, and you don’t have to break a sweat. The recipe that follows is a combination of several recipes that appear in Mom’s Best One-Dish Suppers, which came out in 2008.  Ever since then, this salad has been a summertime staple in my house.

 Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Shrimp

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad with Shrimp

There’s not much cooking involved. The rice vermicelli noodles (a 7-ounce package) are put in a pot of boiling water, removed from the heat, then allowed to sit for 3 to 5 minutes before draining.  A pound of frozen shrimp are dumped into boiling water and removed as soon as cooked through, about 5 minutes.  In both pots the water should be as salty as seawater; it makes a big difference in flavor.

The dressing has no oil; it is just a light, light combination of 9 tablespoons of fish sauce, 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 6 tablespoons sugar, and 2 minced garlic cloves – heated ever so briefly in the microwave until the sugar dissolves.  Then it is combined with the dressing, shrimp, and noodles and put in the fridge.  This can be done early in the day if you are the make-ahead type.

In another bowl, I combine chopped herbs – a handful of cilantro and another handful or two of basil, mint, and or parsley.  Woodchucks ate my basil(!), so it is just parsley and mint here. I add it to a bowl with a about 4 cups of baby or torn salad greens, some sliced crunchy veggies – bell peppers, carrots, cukes, blanched green beans or broccoli.  Snow peas or sugar snap peas are wonderful in this combo, and I’m lucky enough to be still harvesting them from my partial-sun garden.

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You don’t have to, but salads always look better if you take care with the knife work.  A kinpira peeler is an inexpensive little gadget that makes lovely juliennes for carrots and daikon radishes.  A mandoline will slice cukes paper thin.

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Snipping the noodles into short lengths makes it much easier to eat.

I toss the veggies and spread them out on a plate or in a large shallow bowl.  Again, this can be stuck in the fridge if you want.  The veggies will hold up because they aren’t dressed.

 This handy little gadget, a vegetable peeler with a serrated blade, makes matchsticks easily.

This handy little gadget, a vegetable peeler with a serrated blade, makes matchsticks easily.

When I’m ready to serve, I just top the veggies with the shrimp and noodle mixture and garnish with chopped peanuts.  A frosty beer or an off-dry German Riesling does not go amiss here. After a dinner like this, I feel great and happy to have put my garden-fresh herbs and veggies to such good use.  My brother, on the other hand, needs to go on a 5K run to work off the sugar rush.