Monday, May 12, 2008

Remember This One in July

My ardent interest in Super Natural Cooking continues, this time with a buckwheat noodle salad called Otsu. In Japanese, otsu means something "strange, quaint, stylish, chic, spicy, witty, tasty or romantic." Although that's hardly a specific definition, it actually does a pretty good job of summing up this dish. There's a nice interplay of hot and cool, with a fiery dressing (made from lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, honey, cayenne, rice vinegar and soy sauce) tempered by refreshing cucumbers, scallions and pan-seared tofu. And, as author Heidi Swanson writes, "Unlike many pasta recipes that leave you feeling weighed down and sluggish, this one makes for a healthy, invigorating, and energizing meal that will quickly become a favorite." I agree: as the recipe makes a substantial amount of food, I wound up eating this for lunch a few days, and can report that eating a portion of it sitting on a bench in the park at 1:00 did not result in me slumped over my desk back at the office at 3:00.

A few notes on the recipe: cooking the tofu until it is browned takes some time. Be patient, because it's worth the extra minutes to get the tofu a slightly crispy crust. Also, the recipe calls for shoyu sauce in the dressing. I substituted soy sauce, and while I know it's not the same (shoyo is apparently more complex), it turned out fine. I also used regular rice vinegar (my bottle doesn't say if it's made with white or brown rice). Again, things tasted great.

I'm keeping this recipe in my file, for sure. I have a feeling it'll come in very handy on steamy summer days, when I want something "strange, quaint, stylish, chic, spicy, witty, tasty or romantic" but just don't feel like eating a hot dog.--S


Grated zest of 1 lemon
Fresh ginger, cut into a 1-inch cube, peeled, and grated
1 T honey
3/4 t cayenne
3/4 t fine-grain sea salt
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c unseasoned brown-rice vinegar
1/3 c shoyu sauce
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 T toasted sesame oil

12 oz. dried soba noodles
12 oz. extra-firm nigari tofu
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
1 small handful of cilantro sprigs, for garnish
1/4 c toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

1. Make the dressing by combining the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, and salt in a food processor (or use a hand blender) and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and shoyu, and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.
2. Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water.
3. While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into rectangles roughly the size of your thumb (½ 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.
4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, the ¼ cup cilantro, the green onions, cucumber, and about ⅔ cup of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Serve on a platter, garnished with the cilantro sprigs and the toasted sesame seeds.

Recipe courtesy of Super Natural Cooking

1 comment:

Michael Natkin said...

This is one of my favorite dishes. The combination of flavors and textures is amazing. Here's my version.