By Angela Denstad Stigeler
When fresh flavors are popping up everywhere, serving the same-old spaghetti and meatballs can feel as silly as snow boots in summer. That’s why now is my time to change the standard for those quick-cooking pasta dishes.
The first thing to pack away for the season is the canned tomato sauce. This time of year, I leave tomatoes out of the pasta pot entirely, building anticipation for the fresh local varieties to come. I also like to transition away from those early spring pasta splurges with their delicate green vegetables robed in cream sauces. In fact, I like to stock an entirely different pasta cupboard that can use summer’s profusion of fresh herbs and be flexible with the vegetables.
Pad Thai, a rice noodle dish that packs a ton of flavor into a short amount of cooking time, is perfect. This simplified version skips some of the more exotic ingredients, but still gives a great impression of the authentic. If you can’t find pad Thai noodles, you can substitute linguine; if you don’t like shrimp, you can use chicken, pork, or sliced sausages. You can also scramble a couple of eggs into the dish, or use firm tofu for a vegetarian option. And one of the great things about pad Thai is that, while delicious served hot from the skillet, it’s also good cold in your lunchbox the next day. So flavorful, so customizable, it’s truly my kind of Thai.
Shrimp Pad Thai
8 ounces flat rice noodles (pad Thai noodles)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce (tamari)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (optional; or use extra tamari soy)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1-3 teaspoons Sriracha or chili garlic sauce, to taste
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1 cup 2-inch green onion pieces
8 ounces peeled and deveined large shrimp
2-3 minced garlic cloves
1 cup assorted vegetables (bell peppers, carrots, zucchini) cut into matchsticks
1 cup fresh bean sprouts or shredded cabbage
½ cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, mint, cilantro)
¼ cup chopped roasted peanuts
lime wedges, for serving
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the noodles according to the package directions; drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, soy, fish sauce, lime juice and Sriracha in a small bowl. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add the onion pieces, shrimp, garlic and assorted vegetables and cook until shrimp turns pink and opaque. Add the cooked noodles and toss to combine. Stir in the sauce and cabbage, if using, and cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and garnish with the bean sprouts, herbs and peanuts. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.