cold soba noodle salad
yippee! Spring is here. And for once, I’m not dying of seasonal allergies. Having said that I’m sure a pox will soon come upon me, as I know many people whose noses and eyes are swollen from the trees going nuts with pollen production. All I have to say is thank God my generic Allegra is working.
So, Springtime means outdoortime. And outdoortime means picnics. Or eating al fresco. Or clumsily forking food into my mouth while trying not to fall out of the hammock in my backyard. I love to eat outside. I love the smells of fresh cut grass, trees, herbs growing, and charcoal burning. And I’m determined to enjoy all that before mosquito season hits, which, unfairly, will start very soon here in the South.
I totally swiped the idea for this salad from a restaurant where the boy once worked. You can serve cold or room temperature, which is great because you can make this in advance and let it sit while you get on with grilling your entrée or whatever you’re doing. I ate some for lunch today topped with some cubed firm tofu, which I lightly brushed with olive oil and baked on 400 F until goldeny and somewhat crisp. The baked tofu idea I totally swiped from my friend Nathan; I mentally took notes as he was describing it to me while we were sitting in a gay sports bar last week – thanks Nathan for the tip, and for the fascinating people-watching at Woofs.
In fact, I should be eating more tofu. I’m taking a nutrition class, and one of my homework assignments last week was to keep a food diary for three days, then analyze my intake via the Food Pyramid (remember the old Food Pyramid? It’s now called MyPyramid.gov and it’s pretty nifty. Go take a looky loo). At the end of three days, I thought I’d done reasonably well even though I’d used up all my discretionary ** calories on wine and eaten the world’s largest burger (with fries!) at the Vortex. That was all fine and grand until I created my report, and it showed that in those three days I’d consumed three times more meat than was necessary for a woman of my age, height, weight and caloric intake. Meh. You live and learn.
You can probably find all of these ingredients at your local grocery store, in the so-called International Foods aisle. I'm fortunate enough to live in the vicinity of a couple of Super H’s, so I just grab all the ingredients from there. You might have trouble finding sweet soy sauce – it’s kind of like a thicker sweeter version of traditional soy, and flows like a thin molasses. If you can’t find any, use regular soy but augment it with a dollop of hoisin or brown sugar. As for the ginger, I tend to not use mine up before it rots, so I store it in the freezer. When in a frozen state, ginger grates really well. If you don’t have a microplane grater, use the smallest grate hole on the side of a box grater. And if you don’t have one of those, just mince by hand.
** Discretionary calories: calories left over in your diet once all the nutrient needs have been met from the basic food groups
Cold Soba Noodle Salad
serves 4 super hungry people, 6 as a decent sized side. will keep for about a day or so before the noodles get mushy.
3 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
3 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons tamari
1 teaspoon fish sauce (or more – I’m not hugely “into” fish sauce, so I usually put less than others would)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon (or more if you like it spicy) red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon each white sesame seeds and black sesame seeds – or just white if that’s all you can find
2 garlic cloves, microplaned, or chopped finely
2 teaspoons ginger, microplaned, grated, or minced.
2 bundles of soba (one package usually holds three wrapped bundles, so I use two of them (unwrapping the paper tape around the bundle before cooking)
2 handfuls of snow peas (about a cup or as much as you’d like)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
4 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
1 cup Napa cabbage, sliced (optional)
1. Mix all dressing ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
2. Get a big pot of water on, and bring to a boil. Salt it liberally. Get a bowl full of ice water ready and set to the side of the stove. Drop the snow peas into the boiling water to quickly blanch – let them sit in there for a minute or two (no more), then remove them with a slotted spoon and put into the ice water. Don’t dump out the boiling water yet.
3. Next, the soba. One package of noodles usually holds three wrapped bundles of soba, so I use two bundles (unwrapping the paper tape around the soba before cooking). Dump those in to the boiling water, and follow package instructions on how long to cook (around 4 minutes or so). While these are cooking, remove the snow peas and let drain in a sieve. Keep the ice water bowl handy, placing another sieve over that. When the noodles are done, remove them with tongs, slotted spoon or whatnot and place in ice bath to cool.
4. The soba doesn’t need to spend far too long in the ice bath. You dont want the noodles to get waterlogged, so wait a few minutes for the noodles to cool down, then remove them from the water and drain thoroughly.
5. Next, assemble the rest of the salad. You can pretty much put in whatever vedge you want. The reason I put in snow peas is because they have a nice crunch. So into a large mixing bowl, add the well-drained and dried snow peas, some thinly sliced red bell pepper, the chopped green onions, and about a cup’s worth of sliced Napa cabbage if you want (optional - I happened to have some of this in the fridge).
6. Toss in the drained soba noodles (make sure they are super well-drained). Mix gently. Add some of the dressing (you may not need all – pour in some, then mix and see if you need more). Taste for seasoning.