Cool sesame-ginger noodles with chili flakes

If you can't take the heat, get out the kitchen and make this cool sesame noodle salad. But actually you'll need to be in the kitchen but it won't be hot. How's that for a #neat intro to this recipe?

I love the simplicity of this salad because each part shines, and there's nothing "extra" thrown in. It's bare minimum ingredients, but nothing is spared. Celery is one of my very favorite pieces in the cold-salad puzzle—it takes on the personality of the dressing and offers such a bright crunchiness. Red bell peppers are always sweet and full of flavor, too. 

But really this is all about the dressing. It's tangy and ginger-forward, with such depth from the sesame oil and soy sauce.  And if you like spice, go a little heavy with the red pepper flakes. There's something so good about the cold noodles packing such heat. 

This is a great for a same-day lunch or dish-to-pass scenario. The noodles get a little tough and wiry after sitting in the fridge for too long (although it still tastes amazing), so I think it's best eaten soon after it's marinated for a bit. It's good chilled or room temperature.

Cool sesame-ginger noodles with chili flakes

Yields 2-3 large servings
½ lb rice noodles
3 T canola oil (or a little chili oil subbed in would be really good here too)
2 T sesame oil
1 T soy sauce
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1 tsp or so freshly grated ginger
1 clove garlic, grated
¼ tsp red pepper flakes, plus more for sprinkling on top
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste (it will depend on how heavily salted your boiling water was in making the noodles, so adjust to taste)
Freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup finely diced red bell pepper
½ cup finely diced celery
1½ T black and white sesame seeds

Cook rice noodles according to package directions, then drain and set aside. In a small bowl, combine oils, soy sauce, vinegar, honey, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Whisk vigorously to emulsify. Add drained noodles to a serving bowl along with bell pepper and celery. Pour dressing over top and toss to evenly coat. Sprinkle in sesame seeds and toss to distribute. Taste for seasoning of salt and red pepper flakes, and serve cool or at room temperature. It’s best served same day because the thicker rice noodles tend to harden/kink a bit as they sit overnight, although it doesn't impact the taste at all (I still like it as a make-ahead lunch).