I’ve noticed lately that I’ve started to “theme” my life. It started accidentally. I would get inspired to make a particular meal, grocery shop accordingly, and come home and cook to appropriate music while having appropriate cocktails. (What? You don’t do this?) Leftovers might carry the theme into the following afternoon, so why not make a corresponding breakfast in between? Obviously, this mostly revolves around food.
There’s the Italian theme with charcuterie boards, Aperol spritzes and more pasta than I would care to admit. I’ll use red & white checked napkins and play Sinatra, Dean Martin and the Moonstruck soundtrack, and pretend I’m in Positano. I’ve yet to commit to daily siestas, but don’t underestimate me. Then there’s the French theme with perfect omelets, roast chicken and champagne happy hours. The French Cooking Music station on Pandora is delightful, in case you were wondering.
These themes will usually last for a long weekend, which is the ideal length of time to 1. fake yourself into a vacation and 2. use up all of the ingredients you bought to pull this off. Win, win! Now, what started as an fortuitous habit has turned into something I kind of look forward to. Call me crazy, but it’s a nice way to break up these slow months.
Theme or not, when I buy certain ingredients, I usually try to use them quickly in different ways to prevent them from going bad and control the fullness of my shelf-where-condiments-go-to-die. All this to say, last week’s Thai Style Jicama Wraps inspired this week’s Chilled Soba Noodle Salad. The dressing recipe is similar, using peanuts and Thai chili sauce, but this dish works as a light main or substantial side. It’s full of protein, fresh vegetables and big flavor. Of course you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand, but I wouldn’t skip the Napa cabbage. When wilted, it cooks down to a noodle-like texture, filling out the dish without adding additional carbs. You can also serve this hot if you prefer. Just skip the chilling steps below, and toss everything together in the hot pan.
I haven’t quite figured out the playlist for a Thai theme yet, but you better believe I’m breaking out my blue & white bowls and teak chopsticks I just had to have. Purchase justified.
- 1 pound soba noodles
- vegetable oil
- 5 tablespoons peanut butter
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup sambal oelek
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- 4 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
- 4 teaspoons honey
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- juice of 1 lime
- 2 large portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed, thinly sliced
- 2 scallions
- half a head of Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
- 2 cups frozen, shelled edamame
- ⅓ cup chopped peanuts
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
Cook the soba noodles per package instructions. Drain and rinse thoroughly with cold water to stop the cooking. Toss with a tiny bit of vegetable oil to prevent sticking, and set aside in the fridge.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. In a large mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, sambal oelek, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and honey. Whisk to combine and set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the shallot and lime juice with a pinch of salt. Set aside.
Prepare the vegetables. Thinly slice the scallions, separating the white and light green parts from the dark green pieces. In a large sauté pan, preheat vegetable oil– about three turns of the pan– over medium-high heat. Cook the mushrooms until almost soft, about five minutes. Then add the white and light green slices of scallions and cook another minute or two until fragrant. Add the cabbage and toss frequently until wilted, about five more minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the edamame. The residual heat from the vegetables will defrost it. Set the pan aside to cool further.
When the vegetables are cool, add them with the noodles to the dressing. Add most of the chopped peanuts and cilantro, reserving some for garnish. Toss well to combine. Transfer the salad to your serving vessel(s) and top with the pickled shallots and remaining peanuts and cilantro. Serve immediately.
Do ahead: All components can be made a day in advance. Dress the salad day-of and top with additional garnish.