This vegetarian noodle dish is satisfying served hot or cold. Make a double batch and have leftovers for easy summer meals.
Sometimes I buy new ingredients to force me into trying new things. I’ve had a package of Japanese soba noodles hanging out in the back of my pantry for quite a few months. I was inspired by an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations where the host learned how to audibly slurp freshly made soba. The footage of the Japanese craftsman creating his prized noodles was intoxicating. With fluid, confident motions, he flattened, cut and cooked the buckwheat noodles. His loyal followers lifted them with chopsticks and slurped them in with a touch of air. I wanted to feel their satisfaction.
In an effort to find a new vegetarian dish the other day, I rediscovered the soba and decided to make it the center of our meal. Some leafing through cookbooks and a few online searches led me to this recipe from 101 Cookbooks. Cilantro is a favorite flavor and tofu adds the punch of protein I desire. There is a heavy garlic flavor that is nicely countered with a zing of fresh citrus. The leftovers made a perfect lunch straight out of the fridge.
This soba preparation isn’t ideal for noodle slurping (and I did try.) But, the recipe is a keeper just the same.
Soba Noodles with Tofu, Broccoli and Cilantro
from 101 Cookbooks
8 ounces dried soba noodles
2 – 3 cups baby Romanesco or broccoli florets
zest of one lemon
2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
2 large cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces extra-firm tofu
Cook the soba in a big pot of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender – but about 20 seconds before the pasta is done cooking add the Romanesco (or broccoli) to the pot. You want it to barely cook. Now drain and rinse under cold running water. Sprinkle with lemon zest and set aside.
In the meantime make the dressing by combining the cilantro, garlic, cayenne, salt, and olive oil. Blend in a food processor or chop by hand. Taste, adjust for more salt if needed and set aside.
Drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into rectangles roughly the size of your thumb (1/2 inch thick and 1 inch long). Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick (or well-seasoned) skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy. Remove from skillet, let cool a bit and if desired cut into matchsticks (as seen in the photo), sometimes I don’t bother and use larger pieces instead.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, Romanesco and a couple big splashes of the cilantro dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and gently toss again, add more dressing and a couple pinches of salt if needed. Turn out onto platter and crown with a couple pinches of cayenne and a squeeze of lemon juice.