Soba Noodles with July Veggies & Crispy Tofu
Simple summertime eating in a bowl
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My husband is not really a soba noodle kind of guy, nor (now that I think on it for a moment) a buckwheat kind of guy. He doesn’t really love the flavor and prefers a noodle with far less bite (like a nice delicate rice noodle for example).
I feel a little differently. I first began liking buckwheat noodles because of their health benefits. Overtime I started to love them because of their grainy, hearty texture and nutty, complex flavor. For me, a hearty carbohydrate means I can load the meal up with endless vegetables (cooked or raw) and a delicious sauce without anything getting soggy or unbalanced. It also means whether I add a protein or not, it will still feel like a full meal.
It’s much the same reason I love panzanella. Croutons are intensely hearty, and that means that many croutons (especially of the sourdough variety) + piles of fresh veg (cooked or raw) + a bright vinaigrette can quickly turn into a meal.
But I digress.
So, my dear sweet husband doesn’t really love soba noodles. He also isn’t the biggest fan of tofu or cold noodle salads. For him, tofu is bland and unimpressive (he’s not wrong here) and cold noodle salads lack interest and, well, salt.
I tell you about my husband’s inclination not to critique his eating habits (he’s actually one of the most open-minded eaters I know), but to emphasize the fact that even if you too are soba noodle skeptical, tofu averse, and/or think a cold noodle salad could never satisfy you, you will enjoy this meal. Or rather, like Kyle, you might just love this meal.
The grainy, nutty heaviness of the soba noodles is paired with bright, mostly raw carrots, snap peas, and zucchini that are very quickly cooked so as to steam and soften them ever so gently while building flavor (but without losing their crunch). It balances the noodles beautifully and the raw, crunchiness of the veggie really plays off the soba noodle’s heft.
Then the dressing adds even more to love with tons of flavor bomb ingredients: tamari, maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, sriracha, and raw garlic. They’re all powerhouse ingredients and I don’t use them in small quantities. That’s the key to cold noodle salads. You need plenty of sauce.
It’s all tossed together and then topped with crispy tofu which (as of yet) is the only way I’ve learned to truly love tofu. I’m sure tofu can be prepared many delicious ways, but so far, this is the only one I’ve figured out.
Crispy tofu is amazing and simple, and something we’ve been adding to grain bowls, rice bowls, and salads for the last several months as a way to slim down our meat consumption just a bit without losing out on the density of our meals. I also love that there is a local producer of tofu I can purchase at my local co-op.
If you haven’t had it before, crispy tofu has this amazing sort of crunchy exterior and gooey soft center that really is quite lovely. Like a piece of chicken paired with a fried cheese curd or something. I crisp mine on the stovetop in a good amount of sunflower oil because I don’t mind a little bit of oil in my diet, but I’ve heard you can also crisp it in the oven or air fryer if you like your meals to be a bit lighter (and less fried).
Whatever way you prefer it, the key to getting a good crisp on your tofu, is using a firm or extra firm tofu and ensuring you press it before using for at least 30 minutes. Here’s a great guide if you haven’t done it before. We use clean towels when we do this instead of paper towels to reduce waste.
Then, we shower the whole meal with a whole bunch of roasted peanuts and/or toasted sesame seeds (almost always both) and maybe a couple pinches of salt, because yes, Kyle is right. It’s hard to season a cold noodle salad enough.
It’s delicious my friends: a true summer recipe treat for you all. A meal that is as healthy as it is delicious, as satiating as it is light, and as quick to make as the minimal amount of time you want to spend in your kitchen on these truly perfect days.
SOBA NOODLES WITH JULY VEGGIES & CRISPY TOFU
This is a delicious and simple, very versatile recipe that can use an array of different vegetables. The most time consuming part is prepping the veggies so I like to boil and cook the noodles while I do that. This has the added benefit of allowing you to move quickly from step to step, utilizing the same large stock pot or Dutch oven so you can reduce the number of dishes at the end.
Takes 40 minutes
8 ounces soba noodles
6 tablespoons sunflower oil, divided
4 carrots (turnips, beets or radishes could all work here), julienned
1/3 cup snap peas (or green beans), cut in half lengthwise
1 zucchini or summer squash (or more if you like), quartered and sliced
1 teaspoon salt, divided
16-ounces firm tofu, well-drained and pressed (for at least 30 minutes)
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon sriracha
3 garlic scapes, minced
1/2 cup roasted peanuts or toasted sesame seeds, to garnish, optional
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, bring water to a boil over high heat. Add soba noodles and cook according to package directions. Rinse under cold water and set aside.
In your large stock pot, heat 2 tablespoons sunflower oil over high heat. Add carrots, snap peas, zucchini, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute over high heat, for 5 minutes until lots of steam has been released and the veggies are softened. Remove to a large bowl.
Place 2 more tablespoons sunflower oil into stock pot and reduce to medium heat. Cut your tofu into small squares and add into stock pot. Cook, stirring and scraping from the bottom (so all the crispy bits are lifted), for about 10 minutes. It won’t be perfectly crispy but it will yield many crispy pieces and bits. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine remaining 2 tablespoons sunflower oil with tamari, maple syrup, vinegar, sesame oil, sriracha, and garlic scapes. Whisk until smooth, pour over veggies. Add cooled soba noodles and toss well to combine evenly.
Serve with crisped tofu on top and peanuts or sesame seeds, if using.