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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.
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