Old Friends and Asian Noodles

August 5, 2014


I’m not one of those people who has a lot of friends. It’s always been that way. Growing up, my sister always had boatloads of friends; I was lucky if I had one. There are a million reasons–I’m shy; I’m awkward; when I do speak, the words don’t come out right and I end up insulting someone; I’m overly sensitive; I hate to leave my house; blahblahblah.  Over the years, I’ve learned that examining the reasons really doesn’t matter. I’m just a woman of few friends. That’s the way it is.

The good news is, the friends I do have are generous, kind, loyal and brave enough to stick around, which is no small feat.

This past weekend I had two of my oldest and bravest friends over for lunch. These women have known me since junior high school, seen me in all my awkward and spazzy glory, through break-ups and broken engagements and career changes and high-lows and Fuck You Linda’s and they manage love me anyways.

I especially love that we’ve remained friends this long, because we really had no business becoming friends in the first place. We were very different from one another: my friend C. was the junior high rebel, with the spiky hair and the dangerous boyfriends; my friend J. was the confident, outgoing, loved-by-everyone girl; and then there was me. Miss goody-two-shoes-dorkus-maximus.  It would be hard to find a more unlikely trio, but we’ve stood the test of time.

Now, our lives are more similar than they are different, revolving around kids and school schedules and responsibilities. We still have our quirks–C. is still the flamboyant artistic type, J. remains confident and grounded and well, I’m still, still a dork.

Because I don’t like to leave my house, when we get together, they usually have to come to me. In return for the time and gas they spend driving up to my lair, I reward them with lunch. In my opinion, I get the better part of the deal, because they’re really fun to cook for. They’ll eat just about whatever I come up with and that’s exciting for me, because it’s so different from what I get when I cook for my children. Cooking for children is drop-dead boring, is it not? Gaaa.

It was a lovely summer day, so I decided to go with something light and refreshing: an Asian noodle salad. It was also a terrific way to use up the basil and mint in my garden–those suckers are bustin’ right now. Not that I’m complaining–lots of basil and mint means lots of Vietnamese food for us, and Vietnamese just happens to be my favorite cuisine. It’s not too spicy, although you can certainly make it so with a few slices of fresh jalapeno, it’s easy, and it really gets those veggies in your belly.

This salad was a little different because it used grilled zucchini; most Vietnamese salads just use raw or pickled vegetables. I liked the smoky flavor they added to the salad.  I ended up grilling the veggies on a grill pan indoors (instead of on skewers) because we have a wasp issue by our grill at the moment–there’s got to be a nest or something somewhere. Criminy! Wasps freak me out. Calling the exterminator ASAP.

The last days of summer vacation are flying by, so while it’s still warm, I suggest you make this salad. Preferably for a couple of dear friends who “get” you and love you in all of your flawed, messy glory. I’m a lucky girl.




Asian Shrimp and Zucchini Skewers with Noodle Salad

serves 4


3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

zest/juice of 1 lime

2 teaspoons Thai fish sauce

2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon Asian chili garlic sauce

1/2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

3 tablespoons oil

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1/2 pound zucchini, halved and sliced 1/2-inch thick

2 ounces flat rice stick noodles

2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar

1/4 cup sliced fresh mint

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

4 cups butter or red leaf lettuce, torn

1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

2 tablespoons chopped salted peanuts


Whisk together garlic, lime zest and juice, sauces, ginger, olive and sesame oil together in a measuring cup. In a medium bowl, toss shrimp and zucchini with 1/4 cup sauce mixture. Set the rest aside.

Let  the shrimp and zucchini marinate for 20 minutes.

Heat the grill to medium.

Thread the shrimp and zucchini onto skewers. On clean, oiled cooking grates, grill skewers, turning once, about 7 minutes total. Remove from grill, cover with foil and keep warm.

Cook the rice noodles according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Set aside.

Whisk rice vinegar into remaining sauce mixture. In a large bowl, toss lettuce, noodles, herbs and onion with the dressing mixture.

Mound onto plates and top with shrimp and zucchini. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon August 5, 2014 at 7:34 am

Yum! Your friends are lucky ladies. I might drive from Illinois if you’d make me lunch.


Jody August 5, 2014 at 7:56 am

That is not at all how I would describe you. I’d say you’re brilliant and hilarious and you always speak the truth as you see it. You come into a boring coversation and say the shocking, completely right-on thing that ends up being the only part of the night anybody remembers. And there’s nothing wrong with being a homebody. Love love love you XOXOXOXOXOX


Tiffany August 5, 2014 at 5:05 pm

I find it hard to believe you’re not drowning in friends….I adore you!!


Katybeth August 5, 2014 at 7:39 pm

That salad looks so good. It looks like a lot of ingredients but I still might give it a try. Who needs a lot of friends when you have a few friends who you can lunch and laugh with?


Pamela August 5, 2014 at 9:01 pm

I am so making this! Wish I was in your kitchen to enjoy:)


tracy August 6, 2014 at 4:27 am

I would totally be a dork and come eat noodles with you. We are very similar in the friends department. And people leave their homes? xo


Arnebya August 6, 2014 at 8:37 am

As the years continue to pass, I am less interested (or likely) to leave my house. I want this salad warm (I want everything warm). I love that you still have friends from junior high (I have a few from then and a couple from elementary. It’s always amazing to me how easy I am with them and it’s because they KNOW me).


Biz August 6, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Mmmmm….perfect salad! Well my twin sister and I have been best friends with twins since we met them in 3rd grade, so our friendship is going on 38 years this fall – crazeballs!

Before we met them, we didn’t know any twins. They didn’t know any either. Except my sister and I never wore the same outfits and these girls were matched right down to the color of the barrettes! They took one look at us and said “you mean we don’t have to dress alike?!” They didn’t know because their Mom always dressed them the same!


Alison August 6, 2014 at 10:58 pm

I would LOVE to visit you for a meal. And chit chat. And drinks.
Can I just bunk with you for a while?


Dana August 7, 2014 at 9:36 am

Oh Yum! I want to eat this right now. Looks so delicious, and YES, cooking for kids (mine anyhow) is dead boring. Much much more fun cooking for great friends :)


Sherri August 8, 2014 at 1:13 pm

I get you from afar – totally. I, too, am the one with few friends – those I have I do really like (even the newer ones), and…. the old friends just do “get me” – flaws and all. Now… onto that salad…. definitely going to try it…


S in AK August 10, 2014 at 10:33 am

Unhappy confession: I have acquaintances to whom I wave or say hello. And Facebook. I don’t know what’s happened. I attribute it to living in AK. I’m glad you have friends who love you, warts and all.


Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri August 13, 2014 at 10:23 am

I love noodles, as does my entire family. Would love to sit in your kitchen and chat. Your friends are lucky women.


Jennifer August 18, 2014 at 7:41 am

Long time friends really are the best.


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