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A FAST, FLEXIBLE RECIPE FOR THOSE EXTRA VEGETABLES

The odds and ends in my vegetable bin usually end up in salads. But every now and then, I crave something more substantial. Today's Asian Pasta Sauce is my latest solution.

If you have a couple of stalks of celery, scallions and a cucumber, you're in business. Add some tomatoes, and you've got a dinner sublime. Even though our recipe lists veggies in specific amounts, this dish is easy to alter to take advantage of what's on hand. Half a green pepper? Dice and throw it in. Ditto with the last few baby carrots. If you're short a tomato, just don't worry about it. Just stir together the creamy peanut sauce to bind the dish together.

Since boiling noodles is the only real cooking involved, this is a stress-free meal that goes together in just 20 minutes. The heat from the noodles warms the vegetables, and the end result is a slightly-hotter-than-room-temperature concoction that's perfect for summer dining - and very handy for cleaning out the vegetable bin.

Menu

Asian Pasta Toss

Purchased Egg Rolls

Lemon Sorbet

ASIAN PASTA TOSS

1 package (8 ounces) linguine

1 bunch scallions (for 1/2 cup chopped)

3 medium Roma tomatoes (for 1 cup diced)

2 medium ribs celery (for 3/4 cup diced)

1 medium Kirby (pickling) cucumber (for about 3/4 cup diced)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons rice wine vinegar or distilled white vinegar

1 teaspoon bottled ground ginger

1 teaspoon dark sesame oil

1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to taste

1/4 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, optional

Begin by bringing 2 1/2 quarts of unsalted water to a boil in a covered 4 1/2 -quart or larger Dutch oven or soup pot. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add the pasta and cook until tender according to package directions (about 9 to 12 minutes).

Meanwhile, chop the scallions, using all of the white part and enough tender green tops to make 1/2 cup. Place them in a 3-quart or larger bowl. Core and dice tomatoes, and add them to the bowl. Rinse and dice the celery, and add it to the bowl. Dice the cucumber (not peeled), and add it to the bowl.

In a 2-cup or larger mixing bowl, place the oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, sugar, vinegar, ginger, sesame oil and cayenne pepper. Stir with a whisk or fork to mix well. Set aside.

If using the peanuts, coarsely chop them. Set aside.

When the pasta is tender, drain well and add it to the bowl. Pour the reserved sauce on top and toss well to coat with sauce. Divide the pasta and vegetables evenly among 4 plates. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon of the reserved peanuts, if desired. Serve at once. Makes 4 servings.

Start to finish: 20 minutes.

Send us desperate tales of woe or everyday success stories and your favorite quick recipes to Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016; or e-mail ddinnersaol.com.

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