I'm sad to report that we've entered the dark and rainy season in Seattle. Besides feeling covetous toward my neighbors to the south, these atmospheric changes have made something quite evident: my food moods are entirely dictated by the weather.
Of course this is nothing new. I have a hard time getting enough Caprese salad during the hot summer months, or roast chicken and polenta in the winter, or pea vines in Spring. Really, who needs a weathervane when we have our stomachs! And this week was no exception.
It's been very, very wet, and coupled with the fact that we’ve had lots of social obligations without much time to cook, we were craving something warm and comforting yet healthy. I knew exactly what to pull from the old repertoire: soba noodles with coconut peanut sauce and boiled greens.
The inspiration for this dish goes back to grad school where I was a teaching assistant for my friend and mentor, Cynthia Lair (of Cookus Interruptus), in her popular Whole Foods Production class at Bastyr University. Her version uses marinated, pan-fried tofu and a sauce made with peanut butter, ginger and coconut milk. Since I prefer a little spice, this version includes a heaping spoonful of red curry paste. And wow, is it good!
Despite this being the wet socks and soggy jeans season, it's pretty incredible that I can curl up on the sofa with a hot bowl of this stuff and actually not want to be anywhere else.
Soba Noodles with Coconut Peanut Sauce and Boiled Greens
This dish is incredibly versatile. Leave out the tofu altogether or replace it with chicken. Whatever greens are in season will work beautifully.
4 cloves garlic, sliced
6-8 slices (1/8-inch thick) fresh gingerroot
1 cup water
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce
1 pound firm tofu or skinless, boneless chicken (thighs and/or breasts)
2 tablespoons high heat oil, such as safflower or peanut oil
1 package (8.8 oz) Japanese soba noodles
1 bunch greens, such as Swiss chard, collard greens, spinach or beet greens
½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Coconut Peanut Sauce:
1 heaping tablespoon red curry paste (or to taste)
¼ cup peanut butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
½ 14-oz can (7 oz total) coconut milk
In a wide, flat bowl or baking pan, combine all marinade ingredients. Cut tofu into ½-inch slices; then cut each slice diagonally into 2 triangles. Put tofu (or chicken pieces) into marinade and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
For tofu: In a large skillet, heat oil on high. Remove tofu pieces from marinade; using paper towels, pat completely dry. Place triangles in hot skillet and brown on both sides, 6-8 minutes total. Remove to paper towels to drain.
For chicken: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Remove chicken pieces from marinade and pat dry. Place chicken in skillet at cook on both sides until browned and the insides are no longer pink when cut, about 10 minutes total. Remove to cutting board and let sit, covered with foil, until ready to plate. When ready, slice chicken diagonally.
Prepare soba noodles according to package directions (they're the same as boiling spaghetti). Drain and toss with a teaspoon or two of oil to prevent sticking.
In a large pot, bring 2 inches of water to a boil. Add cleaned greens (if using chard or collards, be sure to strip off stems first), cover and simmer until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain well, squeezing out any extra water. Transfer to cutting board and roughly chop. Sprinkle with apple cider vinegar and toss.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, whisk all sauce ingredients together until smooth and warm. Add a bit of water or coconut milk to get desired consistency. Adjust seasoning to taste.
To assemble: Place a pile of hot soba noodles onto each plate. Top with tofu/chicken slices and drizzle with coconut peanut sauce. Place boiled greens on either side of the noodles. Serve hot!