Friday, February 13, 2015

Salad of the Month: Winter soba noodle salad

As I noted last August, I'm currently receiving a free subscription to Redbook magazine. I discovered after the first couple of issues that there normally isn't much in it that's of any interest to me, but it hasn't seemed worth the effort to cancel it, since (a) I'm not sure how to cancel a subscription that I only got as a freebie and (b) I wouldn't get any money back by doing so. So, since it keeps showing up in my mailbox every month, I go ahead and take a few minutes to flip through it, and often I can manage to find one or two useful or entertaining tidbits. In the January issue, for instance, there was an article called "The 7-Day Healthy, Yummy, Fresh Plan For Truly Easy Weight Loss," which featured 21 "filling, easy-to-follow recipes." Most of them didn't appeal to me, since they contained either meat or pricey, out-of-season ingredients, but the "Winter soba noodle salad" looked quite tasty, seasonally appropriate, and easy to make. So I decided this salad would make a good alternative to a soup as my Soup or Salad of the Month for February.

You can see a photo of this dish, along with the start of the recipe, on Redbook's webpage. However, on my browser, at least, only the first two lines of the recipe are visible. So I hope the editors won't be too annoyed with me if I copy out the full version of it here:
Winter soba noodle salad 
Toss 2 cups cooked soba noodles with 1/2 cup grated carrots, 1/2 cup cooked edamame beans, 1/2 cup sliced snow peas, and 1/2 cup thinly sliced cabbage. Whisk together 2 tsp each sesame oil, water, low-sodium soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and all-natural peanut butter; a pinch of grated ginger; 1 minced garlic clove; and a squeeze of Sriracha (or your favorite hot sauce) and pour over salad. Divide salad between bowls and top each with 2 Tbsp chopped scallions and 2 tsp crushed peanuts. Makes 2 servings. Each serving: 306 cal, 12 g fat (2 g sat fat), 14 g pro, 39 g car, 5 g fiber.
We didn't have most of the ingredients for this dish on hand, so we had to make a quick trip out to the H-Mart. Snow peas were a lot cheaper there than we expected, only $1.99 a pound, so we picked up a little extra to enjoy in a stir-fry. The soba noodles, by contrast, were pricier than we'd remembered. Most packages on the shelf cost upwards of $5 a pound. We managed to save a bit by buying in bulk, opting for a 30-ounce package that brought the per-pound price to under $3, since we figured we had plenty of other recipes on hand that called for soba. I was also disappointed to see, as I examined the packages, that soba, which are usually called "buckwheat noodles," aren't made entirely of buckwheat; the main ingredient listed in every case was "wheat flour," which means these noodles aren't a useful alternative for my gluten-averse friends and relations.

We had a little trouble finding the edamame (green soybeans), which we'd never bought at H-mart before. We started out looking for fresh edamame in the produce section; then, when we couldn't find any, we tried the freezer cases. We had no luck until it occurred to Brian to check in the case where they keep the sushi-grade fish, on the theory that Japanese foods might all be stored together. Sure enough, right next to the sushi case (from which, sadly, they'd taken down the sign that formerly read "Roll Your Own") was a freezer case stocked with several brands of edamame, both whole and shelled. There was even an organic brand, but it was sold in the pod, so we opted for a bag of shelled beans that we thought would be easier to work with.

Unfortunately, when we got home we realized that there were a couple of additional ingredients we'd neglected to buy. We had some fresh ginger in the fridge, stored in a little jar of vinegar and water, but it turned out to be moldy, so we had to make do with a sprinkle of powdered ginger. We also discovered we didn't have any sort of hot sauce in the house, so our version of the salad was probably a lot less zesty than the original. Nonetheless, it was fairly tasty, and quite easy to make. The crunch of the snow peas and cabbage contrasts nicely with the slippery smoothness of the cooked noodles, and the protein-rich edamame beans and peanuts make it a heartier dish than most salads. I thought it needed a touch more soy sauce (even though we'd used the regular stuff and not the low-sodium kind the recipe calls for), but overall, it was quite good. Moreover, the recipe is a pretty generous one. As written, it makes two servings, but Brian expanded it by about 50 percent, so we actually had enough for three generous bowlfuls—one for each of us and a pint container left over for lunch.

So, flavor-wise, this soba noodle salad was a lot more appealing than last month's vegetable soup. I have no doubt we'll be making it again—perhaps in the summer, when a cold salad makes a much more appealing dinner. Our snap peas should start producing in late May or early June, and this may make a good use for some of them.
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