Friday, July 6, 2007

Chillin' with Soba

It's been 4th of July watermelon coleslaw fruit salad hot dog iced tea margaritaville salad peaches and blueberries with vanilla yogurt kind of weather. Know what I mean? The kind of weather that makes you go to the fridge looking for something cooling, not something to cook. My crisper is filled with a variety of lettuces and other salad goodies, and I have enough fruit on hand to support an entire colony of fruit bats for the summer. Cook? Well.........maybe boil a hot dog - especially if it's a Trader Joe's Fearless Frank - those huge, perfect hot dogs that I eat only during this time of year. My ritual for the gods of Nostalgia. But my kitchen, which I still adore, even after living in it for 5 years now after the remodel, has not been where I wanted to be. Outdoors. Gardens. Purple basil and sedge grass and kangaroo paws were calling to me. Pots of geraniums and mint and lavender were wanting my attention. And a red shouldered hawk was shouting from the tall eucalyptus across the street.

This has definitely not been a time of baking, broiling or steaming. This has been a time of grazing.

But after a week or so of that kind of eating, I was rooting around for something else. I had been to the Farmer's Market and found a perfect piece of sushi grade Ahi. Perfect for the grill. But woman does not live by Ahi alone. For some reason, I flashed on an old cookbook I haven't looked at in years, called Asian Pasta: A cook's guide to the noodles, wrappers and pasta creations of the East, by Linda Burum. I remembered I had cooked a Japanese style noodle dish from there which was eaten cold. Her description of a particular restaurant in Tokyo which is equipped with a circulating ice-cold brook from which guests help themselves to noodles bubbled to the surface, as I reached for the book.

After looking through the recipes, I knew it had been a soba dish that I had made, but for some reason, none of the "dipping sauces" seemed to ring a bell. Then I noticed a small clipping from a newspaper stuck in the front of the book. A recipe for spicy cold soba noodles. This looked perfect!

Soba is a buff-colored, buckwheat flour noodle that contains some white wheat flour. It can be eaten hot in broth or cold with dipping sauces. There are several variations of soba, including one made with powdered green tea called Cha soba, one made with the addition of Japanese mountain yam flour called Yamaimo soba, and a fresh variety called Nama soba, which is often sold frozen.

I will give you the recipe as it's written (don't have a clue what newspaper it comes from), and then my "doctored" version of it.

Spicy Cold Soba Noodles

1/3 C soy sauce
1/2 tsp molasses (Didn't have it. Used honey instead)
1/4 C sesame oil
1/4 C tahini
1/4 C brown sugar, packed
1 TBS chili oil
3 TBS balsamic or red wine vinegar
1/2 bunch green onions (white and green parts), thinly sliced

1/2 pound soba

Place soy sauce in saucepan over high heat and reduce by half. Turn heat to low. Stir in molasses and warm briefly. Transfer to a mixing bow. Add sesame oil, tahini, brown sugar, chili oil, vinegar and green onions. Whisk to combine. Season to taste with salt, if desired. Set aside.

Bring large pot salted water to rapid boil. Add noodles, bring back to boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, about 3 minutes or until al dente.

Drain noodles and plunge in ice water. Drain again. Rinse well under cold running water. Combine noodles and sauce, toss well and chill. Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Now I must tell you that this version, on it's own, is delicious! It was the dish I had cooked in the past, and the one that drew me back to investigating the cold noodle dishes of Japan. However, Toni being congenitally incapable of leaving well enough alone, decided that shitake mushrooms and snow peas, sauteed with a little garlic and a few more scallions would add an extra dimension to this dish. And then there was that tuna........

So I fired up the grill, combined some soy sauce and wasabe mustard from Trader Joe's, painted it on the fish and flash grilled the tuna. The end result is one that can be enjoyed by both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, with the addition or subtraction of the tuna. This dish would also work well with chicken or pork.
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Chris said...

Yum!! Toni, I can always count on you...I love Soba Noodles, but have never made them myself. My mouth is watering...:)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

I've been on a soba kick for the past few weeks, too. There's something refreshing about cold, salty noodles -- and the tuna is a great addition.

Anonymous said...

oh how I adore soba in all its guises. Hot, cold, warm, naked, dressed, firey, demure. All of them. And now all I can think about is grilled tuna. That sounds soooo good. Thanks Toni!

Anonymous said...

A delicious dish, still refreshingly cool but more substantial than your grazing menu. Great photography too, Toni!

Unknown said...

Chris - Soba is too easy to pass up! I mean, how hard is it to boil water, girlfriend? ;-)

Lydia - I understand your soba kick. It's summertime, and they are just the best!

Ann - I KNOW you'll come up with something spectacular! You always do.

Terry - Thanks! I'm heading over to your site now to drool a little. ;-)

Susan said...

I love soba. It comes in all these funky flavors and colors like yam and mugwort; it's such a healthier step up from every student's staple, the ramen.