“River Cottage Veg” by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Ten Speed, $35) is chockablock with irresistible recipes. The author is a British broadcaster, farmer and educator, as well as the recipient of several James Beard Awards for his cookbooks. A campaigner for sustainably produced food, he established the River Cottage farm in Dorset, England in 1998.

I often refer to this book when I visit my daughter Christy and her family in Oakland. They are vegetarians and I love to surprise them with new dishes.

But they love this salad so much, I have made it several times. The formula says it feeds four, but I usually double the recipe because we are “good eaters.”

Here is what Fearnley-Whittingstall wrote about the salad:
“A bright and zingy dressing, handfuls of herbs and crunchy peanuts pack loads of flavor into simple, easy-to-cook noodles. If you can only find salted peanuts, rinse off the salt and pat them dry.”

He adds that mint is mandatory, but the other herbs pretty much optional. I say you don’t need to weigh out the ingredients that are given in ounces – just wing it.

Herby, Peanutty, Noodly Salad

Rice vermicelli is sold in cellophane packaging in Asian markets, but in supermarkets it’s generally contained in boxes.

Yield: 4 servings

Dressing: 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, minced zest and juice of 1 lime or 1/2 lemon, 1/2 to 1 small fresh red chili (minced – with seeds if you like it fiery – substitute another variety of chili of you prefer), 1 garlic clove minced, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil, 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce (plus more for passing at the table)

1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
7 ounces dried rice vermicelli or fine egg noodles
5 ounces green beans
1/2 cucumber – any variety, but peeled if skin is thick
6 green onions, trimmed
About 12 fresh basil leaves, coarsely torn
Small bunch fresh mint, coarsely chopped
Small bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped

  1. In a large bowl, whisk all the dressing ingredients.
  2. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water; add to dressing and toss. Cool.
  3. Cook beans to tender crisp in boiling water, about 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well. Cut cucumber in half lengthwise. Cut crosswise into thin slices. Finely slice green onions thinly on the diagonal.
  4. Toss noodles with peanuts, cucumber, green onions, beans and herbs. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve with soy sauce on the side for optional use.
Anyone who has grown mint, knows it’s an easy task. The dilemma is keeping it from pushing other plants under the sod as it takes over with determination.
It is certainly delicious in this salad!