Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken and Vegetables

Buckwheat soba noodles plus chicken and assorted vegetables equals a whole-meal salad with an abundance of tastes and textures. Yum!

A new medication has radically changed my tastebuds, making cooking and meal planning a whole new adventure. Citrus bites, too harshly acidic. Shrimp tastes metallic and no longer pleases. My favorite chile peppers and sriracha sauce now burn my mouth. Even coffee seems too bitter to enjoy. Aaaargh! So I'm playing with different spices, fearlessly swapping out ingredients in recipes old and new, and occasionally have to resort to a bowl of cereal for dinner when the new approach does not work. RL  hasn't complained yet, so the process continues. What a perfect time to work my way through my new Patricia Wells cookbook, Salad as a Meal: fresh ingredients, healthy eating, and an opportunity to tailor a new recipe to my taste.

I skimmed the chapters, glanced at the index and found many tempting choices. Buckwheat soba noodles and chicken sounded interesting, so I began with my own version of Wells' "Chicken and Soba Noodles with Ginger-Peanut Sauce". Swapping peanut sauce for peanut butter and adding 3 cups of chopped raw vegetables were the major changes. Cilantro has now joined parsley on my new list of Not-So-Good herbs, so I will omit it in the future.

 Visually interesting, this colorful Asian noodle dish rated two thumbs up today at lunch. The sauce pleasantly surprised my tastebuds with layers of flavor; sweet, sour, salty, faintly bitter and perhaps even a hint of umami (savory/meaty) as well. Smooth buckwheat noodles contrasted nicely with the assorted vegetables and peanuts for crunchy, toothsome bites, and it all came together quickly with ingredients already on hand. Win! It might even be healthy, but today it was all about the taste.

Half a package of noodles filled two bowls at lunch with enough left for another meal, or to use as filling for Asian pancakes or Thai spring rolls.

Slivered chicken, cilantro, onion, red pepper, cucumber, and cabbage are ready to go.  

4-minute noodles plus vegetables and an Asian sauce 

One lunch noodle bowl and a platter of leftovers to enjoy a another meal.

Soba Noodle Salad with Chicken & Vegetables
Adapted from Salad as a Meal by Patricia Wells

yields about 4 servings

6 Tbs tamari or other Japanese soy sauce
2 Tbs sesame oil
1 Tbs sweet Thai peanut sauce (optional)
4 Tbs seasoned Japanese rice vinegar
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger (or Gourmet Gardens ginger in a tube)
1 Tbs Gourmet Gardens lemongrass (optional)
2 cloves garlic, peeled & pressed or minced
1+ Tbs mirin (optional)
1 Tbs lime juice, more if needed as a finish

6-oz soba noodles (about ½ a package for me)
1 cup shredded cooked chicken (about 4 small thighs)
3 fat scallions, green and white parts, sliced thin
2-3 cups sliced raw vegetables of your choice (cabbage, carrots, cucumber, peppers, etc.)
2 Tbs toasted sesame seeds, white or black
handful of salted peanuts, chopped
handful of fresh cilantro leaves 
  1. Whisk together the sauce ingredients; taste and adjust as needed (RL added lime juice to his bowl). Place in a large, shallow bowl and set aside.
  2. Add the soba noodles to a large pot of salted, boiling water; stir to prevent noodles from sticking. Cook according to the package directions until tender, about 4 minutes – keep an eye on the pot and adjust heat to avoid foaming and boiling over! Drain in a colander, then rinse thoroughly until the water runs clear. Rinsing is important, keeping the noodles from sticking and clumping. Drain thoroughly.
  3. Add the drained noodles to the bowl containing the sauce. Toss to coat evenly and thoroughly. Add the chicken, scallions and sliced raw vegetables; toss to mix and distribute the sauce.
  4. Garnish with the sesame seeds, peanuts and cilantro. 

1. Any leftovers will incorporate well into an Asian pancake/omelet or make a great filling for rice paper spring rolls.
2. Serve with lime wedges for an added pop of flavor.

Update: June 9, 2016
Spring rolls are the way to go with leftovers. The Asian omelet was edible, but nothing to get excited about.

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