Soba Noodles with Tahini Miso Ginger Sauce

Wow, has it really been that long since we’ve posted!?! I’m sorry that I’ve been so out of touch here. Between residency placement, school, worldwide travel, and on my end, the much more mundane 8-5 and remodeling of our new house in every spare moment, I know we’ve all been crazy. So, creative cookery hasn’t quite been at the top of my list.

Nevertheless, I miss you all and wanted to reinvigorate the blog again, so I figured I’d post on last night’s slapdash meal of Soba Noodles with a variant on my ubiquitous tahini dressing. There’s something about it that I can’t get enough of, and it’s eternally modifiable for Asian, Middle Eastern, or “hippy” flavored dishes.  It’s all eyeball measurements, so please taste the dressing (which is the key to this meal) as you go for optimal flavor. And if you haven’t ever had ichimi tagarachi, or shichimi tagarachi, you should. The former is simply Japanese chili flakes, and the latter has orange peel, sesame seeds, and other goodies mixed in. They’re great to have around for noodle bowls or grilled veggies, etc. Same thing with furikake–there are dozens of varieties of this Japanese condiment, but my favorite has nori, sesame seeds, salt, and sugar.

Enjoy!

Tahini Soba Noodles

Soba Noodles with Tahini Miso Ginger Sauce

  • two bundles of buckwheat soba noodles
  • 1/4 C. fresh tahini
  • 2 Tb. red miso paste
  • 1/4 C. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tb. finely grated ginger
  • dash of mirin or pinch of sugar
  • warm water, to taste
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • dash of soy
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 head broccoli, cut into florets and bite-sized pieces
  • two large handfuls of spinach or mixed greens
  • optional: cilantro, ichimi tagarashi (Japanese chili pepper), furikake (Japanese sesame seed condiment)

Bring a salted pot of water to a boil. In the meantime, put the tahini, miso paste, and vinegar in a jar and shake vigorously till combined. Add in warm water, a tablespoon at a time, and shake, combining until the consistency is a thick paste. Add in the sesame oil, ginger, the mirin or sugar, and the soy, and shake again till combined. Taste and add vinegar or water, to taste, until the sauce is of pourable consistency, and set aside.

Add the soba noodles to the boiling water and set a timer for 6 minutes. When 3 minutes remain, add the carrots and broccoli to the water with the noodles. At 6 minutes, taste the noodles for doneness and when cooked, take off the heat. Add the spinach or greens to your colander and drain the noodles and veggies over them to wilt the greens. Toss the noodles and veggies with the tahini sauce and serve warm.

Garnish at the table with cilantro and any of the Japanese condiments.

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Soba Noodles with Arugula Pesto

I’m a big fan of soba noodles, which are Japanese noodles made with buckwheat flour. Noodles, of course, are a quick go-to meal, but as much as I love white flour pasta, it can sometimes leave me feeling heavy. I’m not a big calorie-counter (I’m more interested in how my food makes me feel), but the fact that soba noodles have about half the calories of regular pasta, and fewer carbs probably explains why they usually sit lighter in my belly.

Today, I came home to a fridge with little other than a slightly wilted box of arugula. Wilted herbs and greens are perfect for pesto, and one of my favorite things in the world is arugula pesto. I make variations on arugula pesto all of the time–adding in herbs (parsley, which adds a nice brightness, is especially nice), different types of nuts, and of course, generous amounts of lemon juice and olive oil. I often leave out the cheese since we’re a bit lactose intolerant. A pesto sans cheese especially seemed like a good idea for soba noodles, since they’re best suited for naturally cheese-less Asian recipes.

This batch of pesto was made with what we had around–pumpkin seeds, a lemon, and olive oil. The nutty, toasty quality of the pumpkin seeds worked great with the slightly sweet and nutty flavor of the soba noodles. Of course, you could also use walnuts, almonds, or the more traditional pine nuts instead.

We topped it with a few veggies we had around and kept it simple, but of course, you could top it with whatever raw or sauteed veggies you have on hand. Enjoy!

Arugula Pesto on Soba Noodles

Arugula Pesto on Soba Noodles

Soba Noodles with Arugula Pesto

  • 1 package of soba noodles
  • 4 C. packed arugula leaves
  • 1/8 to 1/4 C. pumpkin seeds
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 C. or more olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 scallions, minced

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it for the noodles. While the water is coming to a boil, make the pesto. Toast the pumpkin seeds over medium high heat in a skillet until they brown and pop. Spread on a plate to cool. Toss the arugula in the food processor with the lemon juice and run until the leaves are chopped up. Add a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper and the pumpkin seeds. With the food processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Blend till smooth and then taste and add more salt or lemon juice as needed.

Add the dry soba noodles to the boiling water and set the timer for 6 minutes. When the noodles start to boil over, add a cup of cold water. When the noodles come to a rolling boil again (about 6 minutes), they should be ready. Drain noodles and rinse with cool water. Toss the warm noodles with the pesto. Add noodles to bowls and top each with a sprinkle of tomatoes and scallions, as well as any other veggies that you’d like to use.

Okra Salad + White Asparagus

I have two recipes in one post due to my long absence from ze blog.  We’ve used our location to it’s advantage over the past few weeks and enjoyed seeing friends and family in various areas. Every time I come back to Basel, it’s starting to feel more like home and the weather has been unbelievable.  With the start of spring, the first item to appear in the grocery stores: asparagus in all shapes, sizes, and colors!  I had heard of ‘asparagus season’ since we moved here.  This region seems to have a devotion to spring asparagus, especially white ones. I had never bought white asparagus as they seemed kind of creepy and not as healthy or nutritious as their green counterparts. Hearing all the rage and seeing them repeatedly at the supermarket, we took the plunge when we could buy a handful at the French farmer’s market.  Our Swiss friend warned us that you MUST peel the asparagus before you eat it.  Now, I assumed this was similar to needing to “peel” carrots or apples. Let me tell you – it is NOT the same. We did an experiment where we kept one asparagus with the skin…yuck.  Unless you like extremely bitter, roughage, peel the asparagus.  We also realized why one needs to buy the big, fat asparagus rather than the thin ones we bought (we were cheap) because peeling these things are ridiculously tedious and time consuming.  Definitely not akin to an apple or carrot.

We had these asparagus the “traditional” German method.

Ingredients:

– White Asparagus

– Ping of Salt

– 2 tbs Butter

– 1/2 Lemon

Recipe

– PEEL the Asparagus

– Boil water with salt

– Once boiling, squeeze the half lemon and put in the butter

– Cook asparagus for 22 min (or until you can spear them with a knife – our Swiss friend was very precise)

Surprisingly, the white asparagus actually punched a lot more flavor.  They were quite delicious…though I’m not sure if they’re worth the peeling ordeal.  Next time we’ll spring for the fat ones.

Finally, below is a quick recipe for an okra salad I often have for lunch.  I love okra because it’s slimy and gooey. In Japan you often eat it raw, but I’m not sure if it’s common practice elsewhere (I’ve only had deep fried okra down South, which is also delightful):

Ingredients:

– Okra

– Bonito Flakes

– Cucumber

– Pickled plum (optional)

– Soy sauce

Recipe

– Chop okra, cucumber, and pickled plum

– Mix together

– Sprinkle Bonito flakes and season with soy sauce

Tricks for Eggs

Naomi wrote about rice bowls with veggies and tofu – I wholeheartedly agree with her. Left over rice (or barley, quinoa etc) + veggies = the best.  Since Basel has no real edible tofu, for the extra source of protein I love gooey, runny eggs.  I know some people are opposed to runny eggs. I am not one of them.  Perhaps it’s from growing up in Japan where they often eat eggs raw or when the yolk covers each kernel of rice..mmm.  After a long hike in Neuchatel with Naomi last Sunday and on the train ride back, I was reading Bon Apetit and came across great articles on eggs.  Here are some fun pointers:

– Fresh test: drop an egg into water and if it 1) sinks = fresh and delicious; 2) bobs in the middle = not as fresh, but probably better for baking and fully cooked eggs; and 3) floats = garbage time!

– Poaching per esteemed chef Thomas Keller (French Laundry/Per Se) crack the raw egg in distilled vinegar before cooking to tighten the white. Boil water and instead of dropping the egg in, create a whirlpool by stirring then place the egg in.  Simmer for 2 minutes. Not 3 minutes or 5 minutes. TWO minutes.

Anyway, I tried these methods out on a farm fresh egg I bought when Nat was here at a Funfschilling in Germany. Had no idea what a Funschilling was, but a friend took us to lunch there and it was DELICIOUS farm to table food and great produce etc from the farm.

Note the beautiful yolk – you can also tell a fresh egg by the color/firmness of the yolk. The mass produced eggs have yolks that are pale yellow and break easily which I am sure shows the lack of nutrients and freshness:

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End product – I had it with left over black forbidden rice.  As Naomi said in her last post, I often also put seaweed (from Japan), soy sauce, and fresh scallions if I have them.

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PS – Totally forgot the timeliness of writing about eggs with Easter coming up.  Here are some tips for natural eggs coloring:

– Blue/purple: Red Cabbage

– Yellow: Saffront

– Red: Red Beets

– Green: Red Cabbage and Tumeric

Simmer ingredients with 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar and place eggs in it for 30 min!

Mushroom n’ Kale Rice Bowl with Tofu

My favorite food of 2012, aside from barley of course, has been kale. The kale chip in particular has been making quite a strong showing as weekend snack, thing to munch on while cooking, and item to quench my thirst for salty, crunchy snacks while at the hospital. But we all know about that already… so I bring you something new and slightly more filling: mushroom n’ kale rice bowl! (With tofu.) This is a super healthy meal with plenty of fiber, protein, and nutrients of all shapes and sizes. Its great as a quick dinner and/or leftovers for the next couple days, and a good use for leftover grains.

Mushroom n’ Kale Rice Bowl with Tofu

Ingredients:

  • 2 C cooked brown rice or other grain
  • 2 C Mixed mushrooms
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • Large handful kale, torn into pieces
  • 2 tbsp brown rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Chili flakes
  • Nori – According to Aya, Nori can ONLY be from Japan and is otherwise inedible, so you might as well not even make this dish. At least not until your next trip to Japan. But if you’re not as picky, anything you can find in Whole Foods or an Asian food market will suffice! =)
  • ~ 8 oz extra firm tofu
  • Olive oil

Cut the tofu into thin squares and fry until golden-brown and crunchy on both sides.

In the mean time, sautee the shallot with ginger and garlic until the shallot softens. Add the kale, mushrooms, soy sauce and brown rice vinegar, and sautee until the mushrooms are done, leaving the kale a bit crunchy.

Tear up the nori into strips.

Throw it all in a bowl, and sprinkle chili flakes on top for a little extra something special.

Masayo Salad

Spring is all around in Basel – I heard from my coworkers that it was 80 degrees in Boston?  Insanity!  Here we’ve had wonderful spring with flowers blooming everywhere and great running weather. I’ve also been lucky to have some of my favorite people spend extended amounts of time in der Schweiz.  Last week, a good friend from college, Nat, coincided with a large Basel football game. Sausage and beer?  Yes please!  This is us in Barfuserplatz – the main square in Basel with lots and lots of people.

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Prior to Nat’s visit, my mom provided a lot of Japanese inspired loving in my belly.  One of my favorite salads she made was a red cabbage aesthetically beautiful and scrumptiously nutritious salad. Although I will never be able to perfect my mom’s knife skills of slicing cabbage so thinly and delicately (primarily I lack a lot of patience…), I was missing her and loved the salad so went ahead and replicated it for my lunch….and dinner.  YUM.

Ingredients:

Salad:

– Red cabbage (thinly sliced)

– Wakame (seaweed salad – buy at most Asian stores or Japan…I have dried wakame that I soak in water for 10min and ta da!)

– Carrots (thinly sliced)

– Avocado (cubed)

– Cucumber (chopped)

Dressing (guestimates so taste!)

– 1 tsp of sugar

– 1 tsp of cayenne

– 1 tbsp of sesame oil

– 3 tbsp of rice wine vinegar

– Handful of sesame seeds

– 2 tbsp of ground sesame or white miso (depending on which you like/have)

– 1 tbsp of soy sauce

ImageNoms – get your butt over here so we can consume large amounts of food and vino together.  So pumped.

Dan Dan Noodles

When I was young people used to ask which culture I identified with.  I responded, “I act more American, but my stomach is Japanese.”  I am obsessed with Southeast Asian and East Asian food. It brings me great comfort when I eat it. And I love cooking it as well. As Sara can attest, when I land in Boston my first request is Pepper Sky – amazing Thai food in Central Square. Kileken would also say that I am purist – I am not a fan of fusion or restaurants that cater all of Asian cuisine in one: “Thai, Chinese, and Japanese!”

Basel is not the epi-center of good, ethnic food. If you want bratwurst and rosti then you’ve come to the right place.  It’s also much harder to buy Asian ingredients. No different kinds of tofu in the grocery aisle (pining for Whole Paycheck…).  As one Japanese friend told me – if you want good Asian ingredients, go to London.  Anyway, we improvise and also have my mom send me goodies. I’ve also expanded our repertoire of cooking and dug into Sichuan cuisine.  I had the most amazing Sichuan food in Tokyo over the holiday and knowing we could never find it in Basel, we sought to replicate it ourselves.   Noodles, spiciness (love, love the spice), and soy-sauce based sauce = delish.

Ingredients:

Sauce:

– 3 tablespoons of tahini

– 1 tablespoon of roasted sesame oil

– 5 tablespoons of black rice vinegar

– 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce

– 1.5 tablespoon of dark soy sauce

– 3 tablespoons of chili oil or garlic chili sauce

– 4 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger – keep the juice! (we use ginger all the time in our tea, cooking etc, so every few weeks we make a huge batch in the cuisinart and freeze them in ice cube trays)

Other

– 3 garlic gloves – minced

– 1 cup of protein (I prefer pork, but chicken or tofu work as well) – minced

– Five balls of nest noodles (Thai Kitchen has great ones)

– 1.5 cups of fresh peanuts (not roasted) – chopped finely

– Bok Choy – chopped

Garnish

– Scallions/green onions chopped

– Fresh bean sprouts

Directions:

1. Mix all the sauce ingredients together.

2. Get a wok or large skillet and place on high heat.  Put 2 tablespoons of olive oil, once hot put in minced garlic until golden brown.  Then put in the protein and cook for 10 min on high heat.

3. Pour in the sauce. Cook for five min. Put water in a big pot for noodles.

4. Pour in raw peanuts. Cook for 10 min until everything mixes.

5. Once water for noodles is boiling, put in noodles.  Cook for five minutes.  Once al-dente strain and rinse with cold tap water.

6. Transfer noodles back into pot and pour sauce from wok, mix well.  Don’t wash wok yet.

7. With the wok still having the sauce remanents, flash fry bok choy.

8. Serve noodles, with bok choy and garnishes on top.

 

May not look appetizing, but it's a flavor punch

Green Papaya Salsa

Rainbow Over Drake's View, Bordeaux Mountain, St. John, USVI

We are in St. John, in the US Virgin Islands right now visiting my parents. In addition to this view, their house is surrounded by some fruit trees, including lots of papayas.

Green papayas from the gardens at Drake's View.

Unfortunately, if you leave the papayas on the tree for very long, they get pecked to death by birds, so we usually pick them while they’re green. I’m a som tom (Thai green papaya salad) addict, so we make that a bit, but tomatoes and fish sauce are sometimes hard to come by on island, so I decided to try out something different tonight–Green Papaya Salsa.

Our papaya, though green on the outside, was actually somewhat orangey-yellow already, but definitely not ripe just yet. You could even use a ripe papaya for this recipe, but I’m not a huge fan of ripe papayas personally, as I find they get too close to the edge of rotten when ripe for my own taste.

It makes sense that green papaya would do well in a salsa, as I’ve had shaved green mango with lime, chili, and salt multiple times as a street snack in Mexico. I would definitely make this one again, and would stick closer to the original recipe if I happened to have good tomatoes and fresh chilis on hand, but this was delicious in a pinch. Enjoy!

Green Papaya Salsa with Blue Corn Chips

Modifying this recipe, from Serious Eats, I came up with the following:

Green Papaya Salsa

modified from a recipe posted on Serious Eats and originally adapted from The Culinary Institute of America‘s Techniques of Healthy Cooking.

  • 1 green papaya, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 1 jar of hot salsa
  • 1/4 C. frozen corn (optional)
  • juice of 2 limes
  • juice of a few sour oranges (optional–we had some in the yard), or a few Tb. fresh orange juice
  • handful of cilantro, chopped
  • handful of mint, chopped
  • 3 Tb. minced onion

Stir all ingredients together and taste–add more citrus juice or salt as needed. Our jarred salsa was quite salty, but as we didn’t have any good fresh tomatoes on hand, it stood in well for those. Enjoy with tortilla chips, or even better, plantain chips for some Caribbean flair.