Soba So Good

I have bad luck making grain salads at home. For vegans, these can be cooling whole meal salads, so it’s a big deal, especially in summer. They fail on me: Pasta salads either dry or gummy, rice salads that crunch. This soba salad, though, I’m starting to make weekly.

It’s Japanese in origin, with soba (buckwheat) noodles as the whole-grain carb. The dressing is fat-free, featuring miso, the Japanese fermented paste, usually with soybeans the main ingredient.

Credit Mark Bittman once again: adapted from his Soba Salad.

Soba is made from buckwheat flour or with wheat flour cut in. Generally the package consists of several tied or taped bundles of the short spaghetti-like strands that are 2-3 ounces each.

Soba noodles, as packaged
One bundle works for this recipe.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Why keep miso as a refrigerated staple? Why for miso soup, a quick hot lunch — bonus recipe follows the salad.

Buckwheat can an acquired taste. I loved it the moment I first made kasha years ago. There was a deja vu sense, maybe from the half to three-quarters of my blood that’s East European Ashkenazic. Kasha is buckwheat groats (whole but hulled) toasted then cooked like rice.

  • 2-4 ounces soba buckwheat noodles (1 bundle)
  • 1 medium to large carrot, grated
  • 1 cup frozen shelled edamame, no need to thaw
  • 1 cup frozen sweet peas, no need to thaw
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons lime or lemon juice
  • 2 Tablespoons miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper AND/OR 1/8 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger OR 1 Tablespoon fresh grated (loosely packed) ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons warm water
  • 2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped, OR 1 teaspoon dried minced onion
  • 1-2 cups mixed chopped fresh raw vegetables such as bell pepper, mushroom, tomato (optional)
  • Salad greens, washed, drained and torn to bite size
  1. Bring 1 to 1 1/2 quarts of water to boil in medium saucepan. Add noodles and carrot, return to boil, then lower heat to simmer 2-4 minutes (or use soba package’s recommended time). Raise heat, add edamame and peas. Return to boil, at which point drain and set aside.
  2. Dressing. In medium mixing bowl, combine ingredients from soy sauce to onion. Whisk with fork to combine, breaking up miso paste. Add 1 or 2 Tablespoons of warm water to help smooth. Add to the bowl the strained noodles, legumes, carrots and optional raw vegetables, mix well in the dressing.
  3. Arrange salad greens on plates. Top with portions of the dressed soba mix.

Makes 4 servings. Noodles can range from warm to room temperature. Leftovers keep well, covered and refrigerated; stir before serving again, cold to room temperature, perhaps adding a little lime or lemon juice to refresh.

Notes

  • The legumes can be all edamame or all peas.
  • If the salad greens just look too dry or blah, dress them very lightly with a little rice vinegar or a simple vinaigrette, before topping with noodle mix.
  • Any variety of miso is fine.
  • Find buckwheat soba noodles at Asian markets or natural food groceries. Check the ingredients as the more buckwheat the more authentic the flavor. Also, prices from one brand to another range widely. These do not need to be expensive. Cook’s Illustrated has a good soba summary.
  • Another long pasta if thin and quick-cooking like thin or angel hair spaghetti can be substituted, perhaps broken in half before cooking. Or a gluten-free pasta. Buckwheat on its own by the way is gluten free.
  • Frozen edamame often are sold in their pods. Buy a bag where they’re shelled.
  • The mixed vegetable refers to those crunchy veggies often seen in salads, raw. If you’re more comfortable with, for example, peppers or mushrooms being cooked a bit, add those to the simmer when the beans/peas go in.
  • That cooking water? Consider refrigerating and using later as stock for a soup.

Miso Soup

This recipe is for 1 serving, double amounts for two. For 4 servings, keep the miso at 3 Tablespoons.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon low-salt vegan vegetable broth powder (optional)
  • 1/2 cup shelled edamame OR diced tofu
  • 1 cup vegetables, chopped if needed to bite size
  • 1 Tablespoon miso
  • 1 green onion, top and bottom, chopped (optional)
  1. Boil water in saucepan. Stir in optional broth powder. Add edamame/tofu and vegetables. Reduce heat and simmer 4-5 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat. Place miso paste in small bowl. Add a few Tablespoons of just the broth to the miso and stir until smooth. Pour the warmed, liquified miso into the soup pot and mix well. Ladle into soup bowl(s), optionally sprinkle with green onion. Serve hot.

Notes

  • Miso paste loses some magic if overheated. Do not mix it into boiling water. Get the soup off the burner and let cool no less than 2 minutes before completing the recipe.
  • The ratio of vegetables to broth is no more than 1:2. (My soups otherwise tend to be on the stew-y side.) The first vegetable to consider are mushrooms. A cup of vegetables isn’t very many, that might just be 2-3 button or baby bella shrooms. Diced zucchini, tomato and/or celery are great, too. Frozen veggies do well here.

Pooh-bah Ben’s Haroset

This is a combination of Sephardic, Near Eastern, Middle-Eastern and Israeli recipes. This is a large recipe — about 8 cups/2 quarts — but halving all ingredients amounts works fine. As it freezes — and thaws — nicely, it’s a good idea to freeze leftovers as the fruit relish goes bad after a couple of days. Then it can be enjoyed later in the eight days of the Jewish holiday.

Adaptation of Israeli Haroseth, Egyptian Haroseth Ashkenazic Charoset recipes from 1983 and 1984 articles in the Dallas Times Herald, which ceased in 1991.

  • 2-3 cups loose (not packed) dried, pitted fruit, perhaps 1 cup figs, 1 cup dates and 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup wine or grape juice
  • 1 cup nuts, such as walnuts, pecans and sunflower seeds, or a mix
  • 2 oranges, washed
  • 2-4 apples, depending on size
  • 2-4 bananas, ripe but still firm
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  1. Chop dried fruit into raisin-size pieces. Plump with wine or grape juice in bowl for 15-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Zest orange. Mince zest and add to large bowl. Peel oranges. Dice and add to bowl.
  3. Core apples, peel if desired, dice and add to bowl. Stir with oranges to prevent apples browning.
  4. Peel and dice 2 bananas, add to bowl.
  5. Chop nuts that need chopping to raisin-size pieces and add to bowl.
  6. Stir in cinnamon. Stir in rehydrated dried fruits along with their soaking liquid. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour for flavors to marry. Stir and taste, add another chopped banana or two to sweeten if needed.

Note: I’d advise against hard nuts such as almonds. Nutmeats here should be more a soft chew than crunchy or crumbly.

Thanks, Giving

Here is a Thanksgiving menu that I’ve been refining the last three years. It’s low-fat whole-food plant-based vegan. We’ve found that when you reduce the oil to near-zero you can move around after the dinner rather than lumber with groans over to the TV room.

First is the “meat” or the protein-focused entree. It’s a veggie Neat Loaf. Most years I stuff a pie pumpkin or another winter squash with a favorite veggie dressing, but you can skip the gourd and just bake the stuffing. I have a great cranberry sauce but my family likes canned; if you find canned cranberry sauce without high fructose corn syrup let me know. The leftovers from these are pretty obvious, but if you have an unused can of pumpkin puree, here’s November Chili for the long weekend.

Otherwise, take a look at Scratch Green Bean Casserole, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, and Yammy Rolls.

Continue reading

Flapjacks or Flapjanes

Cakey Pancakes, low-fat vegan
Cakey Multigrain Pancakes are low-fat vegan and rise more than other recipes.

Pancakes, hotcakes and the like are pretty much just another flatbread. But they mean breakfast maybe more than brunch and sweet usually not savory. These two low-fat vegan versions are not bland, either.

Cakey Multigrain Pancakes

Four servings

  • 2 Tablespoons egg replacer powder OR ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 1/2 cups plant milk
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • Dash vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds (optional)
  • 3/4 cup uncooked oatmeal, traditional OR quick
  • Zest from 1 orange, minced (optional)
  • 1 cup berries (optional), frozen is fine (thawed or not)
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • Oil spray
Continue reading

Dress Up

Lettuce Rejoice

Here are two vegan salad dressings, essentially “whole food plant based low oil,” using pantry items (well, my ongoing pantry of staples!). The first is really quick and the second super tasty.

Healthier Savory Dressing

Based on “2-Minute Oil-Free Balsamic Dressing” from Forks over Knives

2 parts good quality vinegar
1 part vegan mayonnaise
1 part nutritional yeast
1/2 part dried herb blend, such as Italian
Pinch ground mustard
Pinches of salt and pepper
2 parts water

Combine all ingredients in a lidded jar. Shake well to combine. Can serve immediately; refrigerate leftovers.

Notes: If using a tablespoon for “part,” this will make about 1/2 cup of dressing, enough for 4-8 servings of salad. (The original made just a single serving, 2 tablespoons.)

To minimize dressing and maximize the fresh flavor of the greens I add a smaller amount of dressing to the whole bowl of greens, before separating to plates — and toss not with a fork or something but with a clean hand. This coats all the leaves quickly and thoroughly. You might need another tablespoon of dressing as you go along. Be careful not to bruise (wilt) the lettuce by mixing too roughly. The hand-mix method works for any dressing.

Continue reading

Lettuce Rejoice

Plate of lettuce salad
Source: National Cancer Institute’s 5 A Day Resources

It’s getting harder to find a satisfying bottled salad dressing, for the convenience. They seem sweeter now, at least the lower fat varieties.

Speaking of oil, there’s a way to cut that in half: toss your salad with a hand not utensils and you’ll need just half the dressing — 1 Tablespoon per serving instead of the suggested 2 — to coat the leaves. It takes seconds as your fingers quickly tell when all are moistened. That works when the cleaned lettuce is bone dry as experts advise or when the veggies are gently shaken of water.

Adapting this no-fat vegan 2-Minute Oil-Free Balsamic Dressing from Forks Over Knives has become my go-to rather than a Ken’s or Newman’s Own. I often prefer vegan mayo instead of Dijon mustard as the resulting emulsion is more creamy than tart.

The recipe is a modest amount but easily scalable. It makes just under a half cup of dressing, for 6-8 servings if hand-tossed (above) or 3-4 servings conventionally.

Easy, Real Salad Dressing

  • 2 Tablespoons quality vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan mayo OR prepared mustard such as Dijon
  • 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs such as basil or Italian spice blend
  • pinch dried garlic
  • pinch dry mustard (Colman’s recommended)
  • pinches salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a small jar with a good lid and shake. Refrigerate until needed.

Notes: Balsamic or red wine vinegar work great, but if you want a lighter color then rice vinegar is good. Cider vinegar has a stronger taste, but sometimes that’s the right thing.

Nutritional yeast is a flavor booster with umami.

Heck yes, this recipe is a starting point. Don’t worry about the nutritional yeast. Replace the salt with a dash of soy sauce. If fresh herbs are available, mix rough-chopped ones in the bowl with the lettuce and drop the dried spices from the dressing. Whatever. Go for it.