The tale of a salad inspired by a waffle.
I was reading SimplyRecipes on Thursday while taking a break from my studies for a huge exam in Asian Religious Traditions the following morning. I saw this recipe, which I thought sounded pretty tasty. I needed a dish to bring to my department end-of-semester get together Friday evening, and I thought it might work pretty well. I already had the soba noodles…but when I started looking at the other ingredients (mango, lots of fresh herbs, peanuts), I could see the grocery bill mounting in my head.
I liked the idea of a soba noodle salad with fruit in it, but what could I use that would be a little cheaper? Strawberries are in season! As for the rest of the flavors, you could at best call the original recipe Thai inspired, but I was thinking about the Japanese origin of those soba noodles (they’re buckwheat noodles-I get them at a great price from the Asian grocery down the street). My ruminations on the soba were particularly pertinent since we ended our class with religion in Japan, so really, it was like I was studying while coming up with this recipe, right? Studying…
Studying would be exactly what I would be doing for the rest of that evening and again in the morning before my test at my favorite coffeeshop for studying, Fair Grounds. There, I would order my favorite waffle, the Ginger and Mary Ann, with pecans (for extra protein-and I’m from Texas!). This is a waffle with strawberries and fresh ginger in it, made on a normal waffle iron, not the stupid Belgian ones with the gigantic pockets in which all the toppings get stuck. I should admit that this is my favorite waffle, but I’ve only had one other kind there, the Apple and Sage (I think you can guess what’s in that). It was really good, but not as good as the Ginger and Mary Ann, with pecans.
And thus I found my inspiration for the rest of this salad. Fresh ginger is a great Japanese flavor. I wanted to use yellow bell peppers instead of red, for the contrast, but alas, the co-op had neither yellow nor orange. Oh well.
This recipe makes a massive amount of food, as I was bringing it to a potluck (for which I was inevitably late and thus had a lot of leftovers…). I would guess this would serve 12-16 as a side. You can divide this recipe in half pretty easily. Also, while I’m usually not a noodle-breaker, I intended to break these soba noodles in half before boiling them, since they were going in a salad. However, I forgot to break them. It was fine, but I think that would make it easier to eat.
The salad was a big hit (with one exception, but I think he just doesn’t like soba). And the test went alright too. 🙂
Prep time: 1 hour, plus chilling time (I went almost directly to the party with this, but it would be fine made a day ahead I think)
- 12-13 oz soba noodles (Japanese buckwheat noodles. Mine come in a package with portion sizes rolled together. I used four portion sizes.)
- 1 quart ripe strawberries
- 2 small red, orange or yellow bell peppers (should make a cup or so when chopped)
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger (could use up to another whole tbsp, but that was all I had)
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp+ red pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1/2 tbsp, plus 1 tbsp soy sauce, divided
- 2-3 cups fresh spinach
- 1 cup pecans
- Put water on to boil for the pasta. Fill a large bowl with cool water. Gently dump in the strawberries and swish them around with your hand. Rub their tops a little bit to loosen up any dirt around the tops. Then let them sit in the water for a few minutes. The dirt will fall to the bottom, and you can skim the strawberries off the top of the water (any that sink are bad). (This is the way my mom taught me to wash strawberries–thanks Mom!) Rinse off the peppers.
- Add the pasta to the water when it’s boiling. Soba does not take that long to cook, so be sure to test it after five minutes or so. Drain it when it is al dente. Rinse it with cold water (I do not usually rinse my pasta–my mom says that rinses off some of the vitamins–but Soba gets very sticky, and since you are trying to cool the pasta off for a salad anyways, it is necessary here). Put the noodles in the fridge until you need them.
- Cut the tops off the strawberries. Cut the rest of the fruit into 1 inch chunks, or whatever size you’d like for your salad.
- Put the vinegars, sugar and salt into a microwave safe bowl (I used my Pyrex measuring cup). Microwave on high for one minute. While that’s in the microwave, peel and dice the fresh ginger. Stir the vinegar mixture. Add the fresh ginger and red pepper flakes. Microwave again from 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until you can see it really bubbling in the microwave. Stir, then put in the fridge for a little while. Cut the bell peppers. Stir into the vinegar mixture the lime juice, 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, ground ginger and sesame oil. Taste the sauce and adjust any flavorings. (Don’t add too much soy sauce because the pecans will be salty, as are the noodles.)
- In a large mixing bowl, toss together the strawberries, peppers and sauce. Then add the noodles, a little at a time until well mixed. Cover and refrigerate.
- Meanwhile, heat your oven or toaster oven to 375. Line a small baking pan with foil. Chop or break up the pecans (not too small, into a quarter or eight size of the nut, depending on the size of your pecans). Toss with the 1 tbsp soy sauce. Toast for about five minutes. Watch carefully! You don’t want them to burn. While the nuts are toasting, roughly chop the spinach.
- If you are serving the salad soon, toss the spinach and a 1/4 of the nuts with the rest of the salad. Add the rest of the pecans to the top of the salad for presentation. If you are making this ahead, reserve the spinach and nuts until serving.
I’m going to go eat leftovers now! Mmm…still good the next day. (Pic above is from the leftovers.)