It’s hot, Persephoneers. And here at the Fuj household, we’re surrendering the grill tongs and heading indoors for some lighter, cooler meals. For us, that means summer noodles and vegetable salads from Japan. Here’s a quick vegan-friendly dinner that satisfies the herbivores and omnivores at our house and requires nothing more than a medium-sized pot of boiling water.
Soba Noodles with Sesame Seeds
Adapted from the always fabulous Nigella Lawson. I’ve substituted brown sugar for the honey, reduced the sesame oil and added some chili flakes for a little extra heat. Mr. Fuj and I ate all of this straight from the bowl while standing at the counter, but it would serve four civilized people as a side dish.
You Will Need:
1/3 cup sesame seeds
7-8 ounces soba noodles
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
5 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar (white is okay)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon or more dried red peppers, or a dash of hot sauce
Snipped chives: as many as suit your fancy
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add salt. Now add more salt. Trust me, you want the noodles to have flavor. At least a full tablespoon will make a big difference in the final product. Boil for 4-6 minutes, enough time to let the noodles become tender, but not mushy. Drain and tip into a container of ice water. Toast the sesame seeds in a pan over medium heat. (Keep and eye on them, it only takes a few minutes.) In a medium bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients except the sesame seeds and chives. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Drain the cool noodles and toss well with the dressing and sesame seeds. Top with chives.
Goma and Miso Ae (Sesame Miso Dressing)
This recipe is adapted from the Fuj family cooking bible: Nisei Kitchen, a stained and earmarked book from the Japanese American Citizens’ league of St. Louis. This little book was first published in 1973 (which explains its devotion to msg) and is in its jillionth printing. Goma and Miso Ae is basically a light miso-sesame dressing for any vegetable, in this case, fresh green beans. Asparagus would be lovely too. Don’t worry if it seems like too little dressing – it goes a long way.
You Will Need:
1-1/4 fresh green beans
2 T. toasted sesame seeds
3 T. sugar
3 T. white miso
3 T. soy sauce
1 T. rice vinegar
1 T. Water
Nisei kitchen directs us to toast the sesame seeds and grind them in a special grinder, but after toasting them (see above,) I threw them into the blender and gave them a good whirl. If you don’t have a blender, throw the seeds into a zip top bag and bash them with a heavy spoon to crush them up a little bit. Don’t worry if some of the seeds are still whole. Add the sugar, miso, soy sauce, rice vinegar and water and combine to make a smooth paste. Cut the green beans into darling bites and blanch them quickly in boiling water, or if you’re too hot, steam them for a few minutes in the microwave. Plunge the beans into iced water and drain, then top with the sesame dressing and toss politely.