Soba noodles with cima di rapa, peanuts and marinated tofu with a sesame lime dressing plus a borlotti bean salad with roast red pepper, feta and rocket
June 27, 2011
Weather or not, it’s salad season. The summer season crops are all starting to kick in. It’s not just that we’re awash with courgettes and salad leaves, there are other more unusual things, coming on too. This week we have cima di rapa courtesy of Denis Healy. As I’m sure most of you are wondering, what is that???? Well, despite the exotic name they are basically turnip greens.
Italians love them and eat them with orrecchiete pasta and Basques eat them all the time with everything I was told by a friend who is just back from there. In the past, I’ve made salads with chorizo and pine nuts which is a great way to go as the sausage really packs a punch against the greens.
This time however, I went for an Asian style salad with Japanese soba noodles which can be eaten warm or at room temperature so it’s perfect for a picnic or lunchbox. I’m a big fan of soba noodles which are made from buckwheat but normally when I cook them at home they never work out and come out gloopy and heavy. I think I’ve cracked it though. Yesterday I had a chat with Yumi in the Hopsack my amazing local health food shop in Rathmines about how to cook them. She said that rinsing in lots and lots of really cold water is the key. It gets rid of the gloop and stops them going mushy. If you want them warm you can then pour some boiling water over them but the cold rinse is key and it works.
I tossed my (perfectly cooked!) noodles with roughly chopped cima di rapa leaves, scallions, fresh chilli, corinader, peanuts and pan-fried marinated tofu. I made a dressing with toasted sesame oil, soy sauce and a little honey to balance any bitterness from the cima di rapa (there actually wasn’t any but sometimes there can be). The result was so moreish that I nearly polished the whole lot (it was a very large bowl).
Soba noodles with cima di rapa, peanuts and tofu with a sesame lime dressing.
300gr firm tofu (not silken) cut into slices about 1.5cm thick
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce to marinate
250gr buckwheat noodles
1 bunch cima di rapa with a tougher stalks removed or a couple of handfuls of other greens like spinach
1 bunch scallions chopped
1 mild fresh red chilli finely chopped
1 large handful coriander roughly chopped
4 heaped tablespoons (a generous handful) salted peanuts finely chopped
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons light olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon runny honey
2 tablespoons soy or tamari sauce
The juice of 1 lime plus a few thick wedges for spritzing while eating
An hour or two before you want to eat begin preparing the tofu. Tofu is like a sponge in that it absorbs and holds liquids. This means that you need to get some of its liquid out before you marinate and/or cook it. Do this by sandwiching it between 2 chopping boards (I have 2 of those cheap white ones from Ikea that I use for this) then put something heavy on top like a pot of water. Leave for about an hour letting the water pressed out run off. I do this beside the sink with the chopping boards slightly slanted. When this is done, cut the tofu into smallish cubes, put into a bowl with a tablespoon of soy or tamari. Set aside for about 30 minutes.
While the tofu is marinating you can get on with making the dressing by mixing all the ingredients together. Taste and add a little more oil, honey or soy if you think it needs it then set aside.
Drop the noodles into boiling salted water and cook as per the instructions on the packet. When they’re done, drain and rinse in lots of very cold running water. Drizzle with a light olive oil and mix well to be sure all the noodles get lightly coated in oil (I find hands are best for this) then set aside.
Heat some vegetable or coconut oil in a pan. Add the tofu cubes and fry until golden. This will probably take about 10 minutes.
To put the salad together toss the noodles with the scallions, cima di rapa, coriander, chilli and peanuts. Again I think hands work best here because if things aren’t mixed really well all the good stuff seems to end up at the bottom. Add the dressing and mix again. Top with the tofu and serve.
Borlotti beans are another one of those summer varieties that come and go very quickly so when I saw they were available this week I pounced. Unless you grow them yourself you probably won’t have huge quantities of these guys as they are pretty pricey so in our house they tend to be part of a dish rather than the main event. This weekend I used them to make a summer salad with rocket, roasted pepper and feta which will feed 2 comfortably for lunch or more if you make a simple omelette to go with. The beans take a while to cook but otherwise it’s a cinch to put together.
A salad with roasted pepper, borlotti beans, feta cheese and rocket
300gr borlotti beans
1 red pepper
100gr rocket (2 large handfuls)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 balsamic vinegar
Pod the beans and cook in boiling water until tender which will take about 30 minutes. When they’re ready, drain and set aside. Roast the pepper in the oven or on the stovetop over a naked flame. Let it cool down them peel off the skin and slice into slivers. Toss the beans with the rocket and pepper Crumble in the feta. Mix the vinegar and olive oil together and dress the salad and serve.