There is that time of year when all you want to feed yourself is fresh, crunchy, cold (or maybe room temperature) food. The time when you are drinking more cold beverages than you thought possible. And when you are going to backyard gatherings or picnics in the park. That time of the year is now and all I want are things that are stuffed with fresh herbs from the garden, salty, tangy, and maybe a little spicy. Luckily, this simple salad satisfies all of those cravings.
How simple? First, throw a bunch of herbs, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar into a food processor. Toast your couscous until it is golden, then cook it with broth to give it some extra love. Sauté the asparagus and peas for just a few minutes, until they have just a touch of color but are mostly a vibrant green. Top all of this with crumbled feta for a touch of salty briny tang, and enjoy. Don’t worry, you’ll have sauce leftover to drizzle over any thing hot off the grill.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, Jonah and I made dinner for my mom and her boyfriend back in December. Now I believe I have told you of my love for Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbook “Plenty,” yes? This meal was no exception. The meal was all vegetarian, and 2/3 dishes were from that cookbook. The meal was light, refreshing, and packed with flavor. Not to mention the great company.
I fear that I am reaching a point where I cannot keep posting variations of these recipes, I just need to tell you to please, please, please go buy this cookbook. Even if vegetarian food isn’t your thing, even if the photos don’t make your stomach growl, even if the lists of ingredients leave you with questions swirling around in your hear. I beg you. Just go buy it. And then, please proceed to make everything in it, even if it doesn’t jump off the page. Every single dish I have made from this book (as well as his other book, “Jerusalem”) has been so lovely and flavorful that I wish I had tripled them all so I could enjoy the leftovers or share with a bunch of my friends.
Back to the dinner. These room temperature soba noodles are one of the few recipes in the book that did jump off the page for me. But somehow, I still hadn’t made it. While it’s a little prep-heavy, trust me, it’s worth it. Packing a lot of flavor and lots of little bites with different tastes (onion, eggplant, peppers, mango, the list goes on…), this recipe is bound to be a crowd pleaser. I can see it being especially good for kids. What kids don’t love noodles and mango? That’s what I thought: none.
Soba Noodles with Mango and Eggplant
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 Tbl sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 of a red chile, finely chopped
1 tsp sesame oil
zest and juice of a lime
1 cup sunflower oil (we used canola)
2 eggplants, cut into ~1 inch cubes
a bag of soba noodles
1 large ripe mango (let’s be honest, more than one probably couldn’t hurt…), cut into ~3/4 inch cubes or thin strips
1 2/3 cups fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (think paper thin, if you can)
In small pot, warm the vinegar, sugar, and salt until the sugar just dissolves. Remove from heat, then add the garlic, chile, and sesame oil, and, once it’s cool, the lime zest and juice.
In a large saute pan, heat the oil and fry up the eggplant. You’ll probably need to do this in a few batches. But you want the eggplant to be nice and golden brown. After all the eggplant is cooked, put it in a colander in the sink, sprinkle (“liberally”) with salt, and leave to drain.
While cooking the eggplant, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles in the boiling water – you want them to be soft, but still a little al dente. Drain the noodles and rinse them under cold water to stop them cooking. Spread them on a dish towel to dry.
Now the fun part: throw the noodles, dressing, mango, eggplant, onion, and half the basil and cilantro in a bowl and toss to coat/combine everything. You can make this a couple hours ahead of serving, and stop here, letting it sit to absorb flavors and come to room temperature. When you’re ready to serve it, add the rest of the herbs. Enjoy!
Update October 2017: I made this recipe again for dinner last night, after seeing squash at the store and wanting to EAT IT ALL. One of the things about the re-design that happened about a year ago on this blog, and about having a blog that has been going for about six years now, is that I look at old pictures and old writing and I just cringe. So I took new pictures, gave the post a little love, and am sharing it again with the world. This is one of my absolute favorite fall dishes: it uses lots of Asian ingredients (miso, soy sauce, sriracha), delicata squash (my personal favorite), and greens (which means it’s healthy, right?).
When Jonah and I returned from Thanksgiving, we were in the mood for something wintery, but a little on the healthier side. Let’s just say that the weekend was full of heavy food and indulgences, as Thanksgiving is supposed to be. I found a dish on 101 Cookbooks a while back that I’d always wanted to make, so we pulled up the recipe, made a quick run to the grocery store, and whipped up this squash and tofu cooked with miso and molasses. It can be served with rice, but I recommend some roughly chopped arugula, like the recipe says.
The other night, dinner rolled around, and I was feeling incredibly lazy. Nothing that I could think of eating actually sounded good to me, so I put Jonah in charge. There’s a restaurant here in Portland called Por Que Non that has really good Mexican food. They have this dish called a Bryan’s Bowl that is just a bowl of delicious rice and beans and meat and cheese and guacamole and salsa and everything you could ever want in a little bowl. It’s incredibly good. So Jonah suggested making something like the Bryan’s Bowl, and I was not particularly optimistic, because usually when restaurants have something like that they have some secret delicious sauce they pour over it to make it so freaking good. And we didn’t. But…oh well. So he searched something or other on the internet and found this recipe for Cilantro Lime Rice to use as the base for our Mexican bowls. And man oh man, it made all the difference.
Mexican Rice Bowls
Cilantro Lime Rice
1 cup uncooked white rice
1 teaspoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp plus 1 Tbl lime juice, freshly squeezed is highly preferred
1 15-oz can vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup water
2 tsp granulated sugar
4 Tbl fresh chopped cilantro
Mexican Rice Bowl
Cilantro Lime Rice
Chopped Red Onion
Chopped tomato (or salsa)
Chopped avocado (or guacamole)
Cilantro Lime Rice
Let’s start with the rice. Put the rice, butter, garlic, 2 tsp of lime juice, broth, and water in a pan. Bring the contents to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and cover and cook the rice until it’s tender (about 15-20 minutes). While the rice is cooking, mix the leftover Tbl of lime juice with the sugar and cilantro. When the rice is done, remove it from the heat and stir in the cilantro/lime mixture.
Mexican Rice Bowl
While the rice is cooking you can also prep the rest of your ingredients for your bowl. We drained the beans and just heated them in the microwave, chopped the onions, and got out the salsa, guacamole, sour cream, cholula, and some tortilla chips.
Now it’s time to assemble your bowl. I did mine kind of like you would if it were the filling of a burrito, making even layers of all the ingredients I wanted. I also used my bowl as kind of a layered dip and ate it with tortilla chips for an added bit of crunch. Oh man. I may not have been in the mood for this meal at the beginning of the evening, but it really hit the spot! Enjoy!