6.19.2006

Lunchbox: Sesame-Roasted Vegetable Soba


Cookbooks combine two of my favorite things: reading and eating. I go through a good cookbook as easily as a best-seller. Out of the ones I have, Nigella Lawson's How to be a Domestic Goddess is one of my favorites, in part for the title alone, and in part because I feel no one deserves that title more than she, being beautiful and accomplished and with children and her own line of cookware, and in part because she makes me feel as though even though I do not have that British accent or shining hair, I can command my kitchen and make magic in meals. I am that sold on her.
So when perusing through the local library, I took out a copy of Feast and it has entertained me since, just idly flicking by the pictures and reading the accompanying blurbs like a personal letter. Her cold sesame soba noodles caught my eye and though this is not the recipe she gives, hers certainly gave me the inspiration and a starting point. I've been trying to eat more vegetables, and certainly I think others would work here - bok choy for instance, and some crunchy fresh julienned red pepper - but I've become a particular fan of asparagus since the lab work and discovering how to roast it properly. (Oddly enough, for the first time today, I ate a stalk raw, and found out that that's also delicious.) Roasted asparagus, in contrast to steamed or boiled, is far more flavorful and seems to pair well with a greater variety of main dishes. The sesame-roasted asparagus is one take that's been lingering in my mind for a bit, and I'm quite happy with how it turned out. I do want to caution you to go gently with the sesame oil, however; you don't want overwhelm either the vegetables or the noodles with an overly slick dressing. I used the 1/2 cup originally called for in the dressing and found it good but just too oily and not allowing the other flavors' accents; so I'm reducing the amount in the recipe listed here. Should you find it still a bit much for your taste, simply refrigerate or let sit until the oil rises to the top, and skim some off with a teaspoon.

SESAME-ROASTED VEGETABLE SOBA
dressing (adapted from Epicurious)
2 T plus 2 t light/lowsodium soy sauce
2 T rice wine vinegar
about a 1x2 inch piece ginger, peeled and very finely grated
4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
2 T honey
about 6-7 T toasted sesame oil
soba salad
about 7 oz soba noodles
about 10 oz baby carrots
12 oz asparagus, fresh or frozen, cut into about 1 inch sections
sesame oil and sea salt
5-7 large Thai basil leaves, thinly sliced
1 bunch scallions, chopped
sesame seeds

In a measuring cup or small bowl combine the dressing ingredients and whisk well. Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes to let the flavors develop; whisk well again each time before using.
Boil the soba noodles according to the package directions, about 4-5 minutes to your taste. Drain well. Run the noodles under cold water to rinse; drain well again. Turn the noodles out into a large bowl and toss with about 1/4 c dressing so that they do not stick together.
Meanwhile, preheat an oven to 400 F. Wash and peel the baby carrots if they didn't come prepared, and slice them in half lengthwise. Toss the carrot spears with a tiny bit of oil, some salt, and half of the Thai basil leaves. Let roast in the oven for about 20 minutes, turning after 10. Toss the asparagus tips and spears with a tiny bit of oil, some salt, and the remaining Thai basil. Add to the carrots and roast another ten to twelve minutes, until the carrots are fork tender and the asparagus is cooked through. Let cool.
Toss the soba noodles with the asparagus and carrots. Drizzle the dressing over to taste and toss well to combine. Sprinkle a portion of the scallions and sesame seeds over each serving.
Should make enough for one week's worth of lunches.
Time: about one hour.

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