We’ve just returned from a quick trip to Death Valley National Park. At 282 feet below sea level, the park has the distinction of having the lowest elevation on the continent and is also widely known for its extreme weather conditions, scorching in the summer with temperatures in the 120’s (F). Most Americans stay clear of the area past May but the two main establishments in Furnace Creek are open all year. The Furnace Creek Ranch and the Furnace Creek Inn are busy with international visitors even in the brutal heat of summer. The Ranch offers more casual lodging with an old-California mining town feel. Just up the road, above sea level is the Inn, a bit more refined with a spacious dining room and more luxurious rooms (recognized as a Historic Hotel of America). We’ve been comfortable during our stay at the Ranch and the Inn and both have very nice hot-spring-fed swimming pools.
I’ve been lucky enough to see the beauty of this area in springtime. Wild flowers in full bloom cover the desert landscape in a kaleidoscope of colors; at this time of the year Death Valley teems with life. Sadly, I think our old pictures that captured all the colors are long gone but here are just a few snapshots of the weekend from my phone camera.
Getting to Death Valley is part of the fun. My husband flies a small, single engine aircraft that makes getting there an adventure in itself. We are able to see vistas like the ones above. To get there we had to cross the Sierras, cruising at 17,500 feet on the outbound flight for a straight shot to our destination. On the way back we stopped for fuel at Bishop near the Mammoth ski area, and flew over the mountain ranges you see above. If you look closely at the picture with the snow you will see Mono Lake in the distance.
We stayed at the Furnace Creek Inn, a beautiful oasis in the desert. Surrounded by palm trees in the middle of nowhere is the way most would describe this place but we like it. I am very attracted to the desert landscape; have been since my husband introduced me to desert camping a dozen years ago. When the light hits the mountains just right there really is nothing more beautiful. We rode our bikes after breakfast and after a 25 mile ride took a break for lunch and lounged on the hot spring fed swimming pool all afternoon. Overall, it was a wonderful, quick getaway.
This bowl of noodles was what I served for dinner two nights in a row before departing for our weekend trip. I had been craving noodles with a peanut vinaigrette. This version from the archives is my favorite but I wanted something a bit different with the noodles. Here, I threw in some of the same ingredients–peanut butter, ginger, soy sauce, chili paste–but I added a healthy dose of lime juice and zest to perk up the peanut butter. I tend to use multi-grain pasta whenever I prepare Asian noodle dishes because the heavier pasta seems to pair well with the peanut butter and sesame oil. Feel free to use your favorite pasta/noodles but I think you’ll like this vinaigrette as much as I did. Bright and fresh tasting, it’s exactly what my taste buds craved last week.
** Besides boiling the noodles, there’s no cooking involved here. Toss the pasta in the vinaigrette and garnish with lots of scallions. I tossed my pasta with a bit more olive oil and lime juice but that is my preference. On the second night I added chopped cabbage and Tuscan kale to the mix–it’s great this way, too.
- ½ pound noodles or spaghetti (I used multi grain thin spaghetti)
- Juice of 1 lime and zest of half (or a little more depending on your limes)
- Pinch salt
- 2 heaping tablespoons peanut butter (I use Adam's Unsalted Creamy PB)
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon sambal oelek (or your favorite chili paste)
- 1 inch piece of ginger, grated
- 2-3 stalks scallions, chopped
- olive oil, optional
- Bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare noodles or pasta according to package directions.
- Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette by combining whisking together all the ingredients above from the lime to the ginger. Use the proportions as a guide and adjust to taste.
- The vinaigrette recipe makes just under 1 cup and you may not need it all for the ½ pound of pasta. Add as little or as much as you like. I found that I liked this with a bit more oil and lime juice so I tossed the freshly-cooked pasta in a bit of olive oil and another half a lime; this also keeps the pasta from sticking together while you prepare the vinaigrette. Garnish with chopped scallions.