When I saw the weather forecast for Sunday, Easter, a quiet day when I had absolutely nothing lined up to do, I immediately knew I wanted to spend the day outside. My weather app promised sunshine, 14ºC (57ºF). Maybe I should have stuck my arm out my front door to feel the not-14ºC weather, but I was optimistic. The sun was shining (that wasn’t a lie), which fooled me into thinking it was much warmer than it actually turned out to be. I picked my warm weather outfit accordingly: Black Keds with no socks. Black, ankle-grazing skinny pants. Black and white Buffalo plaid shirt. Cool necklace. Spritz of perfume. Sunscreen, mascara, blush, lipbalm. Boom. Nailed it.
The point is, I wanted to go on a picnic (and just like that, we’ve arrived at the food).
I predicted it would be a quieter day in wine country due to it being Easter, and therefore, I could score a picnic table without any trouble. In about 45 minutes, I had made this cold noodle salad, got myself together, threw a blanket in my vehicle, filled a mason jar with water (and a baby mason jar with sriracha for the noodles – life essentials), tossed in a slice of French chestnut apple “sweet pizza” I had made the night before for dessert, sent a text (or three) and captured someone to bring along. They didn’t know what we were doing, where we were going or what I had planned. Things were going so well. I felt so…spontaneous.
And then we arrived in beautiful Ontario wine country, right at the lake, scrambling for sunglasses because there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Parked, we took one step outside and turned into marble statues due to an icy gust of wind that continued throughout our meal.
But we were having this picnic, dammit. There was no need to lug around heavy ice packs, because, well, the weather. And, of course, there was no problem finding a free picnic table because it was freezing cold outside. While we watched the choppy, icy waves with the sunshiny blue sky that went on forever, we ate our noodles, shivering, with our hands conveniently frozen into the fork-holding position. The obvious remedy to the cold was a hot drink, which happened, followed by a wine tasting at a gorgeous vineyard (indoors, clearly).
Maybe next Easter weekend, regardless of what the liars at the weather centre say, I’ll make this super-packable, super-delicious, sweet-salty-umami cold noodle salad, capture an unsuspecting guest, eat in the freezing cold spring wind by the lake and finish the day by getting gently buzzed (semi-drunk) at a wine tasting. I’m not into traditional, anyways.
Cold Miso-Orange Sesame Noodle Salad with Thai Basil, Asparagus, & Tofu
This cold Asian noodle salad recipe uses whole grain spelt pasta for a healthier twist. It’s dressed with a light sesame orange miso sauce and tossed with fresh basil. Seasonal asparagus and tofu or chicken rounds it out. This “pasta salad” is packable, making it perfect for work and school lunches, picnics and road trips. The recipe can be made up to 2 days ahead.
Serves 2 to 4
1/2 pound (8 ounces) spelt spaghetti or gluten-free brown rice spaghetti or buckwheat soba noodles
1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed and discarded, stalks cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 (350 gram) package extra-firm tofu, pressed, cut into matchsticks or small cubes OR 1 cooked chicken breast, shredded
2 cups loosely packed Thai or regular basil, torn
Miso-Orange Sesame Dressing
1/4 cup sweet white miso
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon avocado oil or other neutral-tasting oil
1 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground dried ginger
Sesame seeds, for serving (optional)
Sriracha sauce, for serving (optional)
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook noodles (pasta) according to package directions, adding asparagus in last minute of cooking. Drain, rinse with cold water until chilled, and drain again. Add cooked noodles and asparagus to a large bowl along with tofu or chicken and basil.
- In a medium bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients until combined. Add to noodle mixture and toss gently to mix (use your hands for best results). Chill until ready to serve or up to 2 days. Serve with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and hit of sriracha sauce, if using.