Thai cellophane noodles with shrimp

Plan ahead when serving this salad; the enticing marriage of spicy and nutty flavors is best if allowed to develop for several hours before serving.

4 ounces thin cellophane noodles

For the Peanut-Ginger Dressing

½ cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
1 piece fresh ginger, 2 inches long by 1 inch thick, peeled and cut into ½-inch-thick chunks
1 teaspoon hot red chili pepper (seeds removed), or to taste (or substitute a milder chili) or 1 teaspoon Chinese chili paste with garlic
¼ cup fresh lime juice, lemon juice, or white rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar

To complete the recipe

8 ounces frozen cooked salad shrimp, thawed, or freshly cooked salad shrimp
2 tablespoons diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, cilantro, or mint (fresh is essential)
Sprigs of fresh basil, cilantro, or mint for garnish

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat; remove from the heat. Add the cellophane noodles; soak, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and clear, about 8 to 10 minutes, or according to package instructions. (If the noodles are thicker, it may be necessary to cook them in boiling water.)

While the noodles are soaking, put all of the dressing ingredients into a food processor or electric mincer; process until the gingerroot is finely chopped and the peanuts are slightly chunky.

When the noodles are softened and clear, drain and rinse well in cold water, then drain again. Rinse with cool water and drain again.

Transfer the noodles to a large bowl; use kitchen shears to cut them into about 6-inch lengths. Add the dressing and toss. Add the remaining ingredients; toss again.

Taste and adjust the amount of hot chili pepper. Let stand at room temperature for about ½ hour before serving.