Husband was out of town last week, so I took that opportunity to make all the food he hates. (Or all the food he thinks he hates.) Enter this sesame soba salad with mushrooms and tofu. He's never had this particular dish before, but it just seems like exactly the kind of thing he wouldn't want to see on the dinner table after a long day at work. You get a sense for these things after spending 20 years with someone. But like I said, he was gone, and it was the perfect repository for my recent flush of homegrown shiitakes.
The recipe is from Melissa Clark's latest book, Cook This Now, which you should seriously consider buying, not because of the bullying title but because your favorite blogger bullied you into it. (That's me, by the way. Your favorite blogger. In case somebody else jumped to mind.) The chapters are arranged by month so it's perfect for cooking with the seasons, especially if you belong to a particularly fertile CSA. It's one of those cookbooks where every single recipe sounds good.
Soba are thin Japanese buckwheat noodles, and here they're tossed with roasted mushrooms, fresh cucumbers and scallions, and a sesame and soy sauce dressing brightened with ginger and a bit of orange juice. There's also a recipe for tofu "croutons," which I was skeptical about, not being much for tofu myself, but then I ate half of the fried cubes before dinner was even served. Frying makes everything better, even tofu.
I think you can pretty well imagine the kids' reaction to this meal. My eldest looked stricken when confronted with his plate. He's a great eater these days, but even he has his limits. Brown pasta? Tofu? Mushrooms that look like sea monster tentacles? Not a recipe for success. (Well, maybe the sea monster tentacles.) Both kids ate their mandatory quota of bites and then slunk off. But, boy, I thought it was delicious. I will definitely be making this again, though maybe just for my solo weekday lunches.
Sesame Soba Salad with Roasted Shiitakes and Tofu Croutons
When outdoor potluck season begins, consider this instead of your usual pasta salad.
8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, caps sliced into thin strips
2 1/2 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil, divided
5 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce, divided
1/2 lb. extra-firm tofu, drained, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 Tbsp. peanut oil or olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
1 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. grated gingerroot
1 medium cucumber, peeled
6 oz. soba noodles
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. sesame seeds
Salt to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Set a pot of water to boil.
Toss the mushroom slices with 1 Tbsp. sesame oil, 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce, and a pinch of salt. Spread them out on a baking sheet in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until mushrooms are tender and slightly golden, 8-10 minutes.
Pat tofu cubes dry with paper towels and heat oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the tofu in a single layer and let it cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Flip the pieces over and cook 2-3 minutes more until the other side is golden. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 Tbsp. soy sauce and 1/2 Tbsp. sesame oil. Pour it into the pan with the tofu and toss for 1 minute longer. Drain tofu on a paper towel-lined plate.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 Tbsp. soy sauce, 1 Tbsp. sesame oil, orange juice, rice wine vinegar, and ginger. Let sit so flavors meld.
Cook the soba noodles according to the package instructions. My instructions were in Japanese, so I kept tasting them until they seemed done, about 6 minutes. Drain and run under cold water, draining again.
Cut the peeled cucumbers lengthwise into quarters and scoop out the seeds. Cut each quarter into slices. In a large bowl, toss the noodles with the cucumber, mushrooms, scallions, and cilantro. Lightly toast sesame seeds in a dry pan, tossing frequently, 1-2 minutes. Add sesame seeds to salad. Toss with dressing, top with tofu, and serve.