This week has been quite the challenge. We launched our #LOVENOTES Suicide Prevention Campaign this past Monday. I generally don’t like to plan events and sale food because it is a lot of work. I had some people cancel on me and had to come up with something with less than 24 hour notice. I wanted to do something nice and easy so I could focus on ensuring the event ran smoothly and everyone enjoyed themselves.
I had planned on covering sautéed cucumbers as a technique this month, as we generally associate cucumbers with being raw. However, they are delicious cooked. Summers in Texas can be extremely hot. At times you want something nice, light and refreshing. I have a passion for Asian Food, specifically Japanese Food. I decided that I was going to make a cold Soba for the campaign launch and what better way to utilize the cooked cucumbers.
I love Asian Cuisine because there is so much depth to the flavor of the food yet everything is fresh, natural and light. For this salad, I precooked the Soba Noodles, sautéed the vegetables in a wok, then tossed everything in a white miso peanut dressing.
Soba is a Buckwheat Noodle it can be gluten free but sometimes flour is added to help with elasticity. Typically it is found dry in specialty grocery stores. I have only seen it made fresh when I was working at NOBU. The art of Soba as with any pasta is a beauty. You have to be calm and relaxed, it’s almost as if the noodle can sense your frustration and anxiety and absorbs it. Traditional Soba is served cold with a side of dashi, but I decided it to make this one into a salad for easier serving. Plus it’s delicious.
To make the Soba you bring water to a boil and add salt until it tastes like ocean water as with regular noodles. This allows the pasta to absorb the flavor of the salt. Dry soba cooks in about 5 minutes, it’s pretty quick. Stir immediately to prevent sticking. You want to have some ice water nearby to shock the noodles and stop the cooking. Soba has a lot of starch, it’s recommended that you rinse it a few times to remove it, this prevents the gumminess. I like to toss the soba in a little bit of sesame oil to prevent sticking. Use a small amount as sesame oil is very strong.
I began with the Bok Choy as it takes longest to cook. Bok Choy is a member of the cabbage family. I like to sauté it to start the cooking process then let it steam to finish. The leaves cook fast but you want the root to be nice and tender as well. Separate the leaves from the stem. Sautee the stems first, once tender add in the leaves, a drop of water and let them steam to finish. Once the Bok Choy is done, remove from the wok and reserve.
As with most cooking you want to add depth to the dish by cooking in layers, building upon the foundation of the previous ingredients. This allows the flavors to come together a lot better. I then started with sautéed fresno peppers, once they were nice and soft I added freshly chopped ginger. This method also leaves a nice flavor on the pan to build that foundation of flavor.
Next I threw in the cucumbers until they were cooked but not too soft, then you add in the green onions until they get soft and pliable. Last I added fresh daikon as you still want the crunch but some of that rawness to be removed from the residual heat. Cool all the vegetables and toss in with your noodles. Finish with the dressing, pour the dressing around the side of the bowl not on top of the noodles. If you pour dressing directly on top it will make the noodles soggy. A bowl works best as it allows you to fully incorporate and toss the ingredients in.
Garnish with sliced scallion bottoms and wakame.
White Miso Peanut Dressing
Miso is one of my favorite ingredients to make a dressing with. Umami is the flavor profile that I enjoy the most. For this particular dressing you really only need a few of the Japanese pantry staples: Miso, Rice Wine Vinegar, Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, and some Sugar (you can also use Honey or Agave). I like to start with the base which is most forgiving, the Peanut Butter. I add in a little miso as the flavor is pretty strong. I balance the flavor with rice wine vinegar for acid, soy sauce for the salt, sesame oil for that depth and sugar or sweetener of your choice. I like to encourage people to experiment, learn and develop their palettes on their own. So I will not include the recipe for this particular dressing but experiment and create a dressing that you enjoy.
Cold Soba Salad
1# Soba Noodles
2 Fresno Peppers- sliced
1 2” Piece Ginger- finely diced
2 Heads Bok Choy- Leaves and Stem separated
2 Cucumbers- We used Row 7 Experimental Cucumbers you can sub with Kirby or (1) Hot House
1 Bunch Scallions- Greens 2” sticks, Whites sliced and reserved for garnish
1 cup Daikon- Julienned
White Miso Peanut Dressing