Living in San Francisco, it’s easy to forget what it’s like to sweat through a shirt in the stifling summer heat. Thankfully this weekend I traded in the crummy June fog for the blue skies and rolling vined hills of wine country, not to mention 96-degree temps… Pulsing swollen mosquito bites… Hands singed on a hot steering wheel… Fleeting notions of removing one’s sweaty bra…
There are few things that will cool a body’s internal temperature down on stifling days like those. A cold shower, iced tea and “Otsu” Cold Soba Salad.
Grated ginger and Japanese pepper powder add heat to a soy vinaigrette that’s emulsified with sesame oil. Tossed into a chilled bowl of soba noodles, fried tofu, cilantro and scallions, the combo of cool, spicy, crunchy and smooth is enough to trick the body back into perfect equilibrium.
“Otsu” Cold Soba Salad
Adapted from Pomelo restaurant
* zest of 1 lemon
* 1 1/2 oz. cleaned ginger, thinly sliced
* 1 T. granulated sugar
* 3/4 t. cayenne (I used Nanami Togarashi Japanese Pepper instead)
* 3/4 t. salt (I skipped the salt)
* 1 T. fresh lemon juice
* 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
* 1/3 cup soy sauce
* 2 T. canola oil (I used olive)
* 2 T. pure sesame oil
Soba Noodle Salad:
* 1 package (9-10 oz.) soba noodles, cooked and rinsed in cold running water
* 1 block firm tofu, cut to 1/2″ cubes
* 2 T. canola oil
* 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
* 3 scallions, green and white part, cleaned and thinly sliced
* 1/2 cucumber, peeled and cut in half lengthwise then cut across into thin half-moons
* Sprinkle sesame seeds + cilantro sprigs for garnish
In a food processor, combine lemon zest, ginger, sugar, cayenne, and salt and process to a smooth puree; add lemon juice, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Blend well. Slowly add canola oil and sesame oil until well combined.
Add tofu to a large non-stick skillet without any oil and toss over high heat until all water has evaporated; add canola oil, reduce heat to medium-high and fry, tossing frequently until tofu is firm and bouncy; beware of possible splattering; drain over paper towels; in a large mixing bowl combine drained soba noodles, cilantro, scallions, cucumber and 2-3 oz dressing, toss well; arrange salad in center of large plate and top with fried tofu. Garnish with sesame seeds and cilantro sprigs.