Soba valentine.

IMG_3397

Winter is drinking out of mugs and eating from bowls. Winter is Valentine’s Day- we say we don’t like it but love it anyways. Winter is the scarf you knit in eighth grade and still wear; it’s remembering and nesting. And, as it happens, winter is finding the last delicata squash, sweet and tender and golden, in a picked-over bin at the market. Which is what happened this past week and is what leads me to soba.

This recipe employs a lean winter larder- seaweed, soba, kale, squash- and a bit of memory. When I was in high school, I spent some time as a foreign exchange student in Japan. My first bite on the mainland was that of soba. It was summer, and the soba was hot, and I was jetlagged in an Ambien-induced haze. Needless to say, soba was not particularly impressive to my sixteen year-old self; it would take a nudge from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, seaweed, and a little pantry desperation to make me reconsider the earthy, buckwheat soba noodle.

IMG_3389IMG_3356IMG_3343

Living near the ocean in Seattle makes me want to try new things. Maybe that’s why unbelievably ridiculous shows like Jersey Shore and The Real World happen on the beach. The expanse of unknown water, the strange little creatures that make their way onto the shore, the barnacles and salt; I’d like to think that, though oceanic nudging, I’ve become a new-found devotee of many new things, including soba. (Other subjects- thigh tattoos, double IPAs, purposeful hipster mullets- are still under debate.)

In recent times, soba has gone mainstream and you’ll find it in the ethnic aisle of most grocery stores. Watch it when you’re boiling the noodles; cooked too long soba will be as bland and mushy as boiled cardboard noodles. Cooked al dente and seasoned while still warm and soba takes on a new identity: buttery, complex, and beautifully supple.

So, soba, tonight for Valentine’s Day dinner when you ask me to remember you and to cook and to love you, I will check “yes.” You taste exotic and yet comforting, humble and rich. You absorb flavors like no other noodle and you soften tough vegetables like kale and seaweed. It’s nice to dine with you again. Happy Valentine’s Day, friends! ❤

IMG_3421

Soba with Seaweed and Delicata Squash

Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Soba Noodles with Aubergine and Mango” from Plenty.

Serves four.

  • 2 medium delicata squash, cored and sliced in 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil (such as canola oil)
  • 1/2 large red onion, very thinly sliced
  • small bunch of lacinato kale, roughly chopped
  • 12 ounces / 3 bunches dried soba noodles
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
  • grated zest and juice of one large lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 4 sheets dried seaweed laver, cut in strips
  • handful of fresh cilantro and/or parsley, chopped
  • handful black sesame seeds and/or peanuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.

In a large bowl, toss delicata squash rounds with  1/4 cup brown sugar, canola oil, and a hefty pinch of salt. Pour out onto baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally , until squash is crisp and caramelized.

In the meantime, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Make the dressing by combining vinegar, remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, salt, garlic, red pepper flakes, ginger , sesame oil, and lemon zest and juice in a jar. Shake jar until sugar dissolves and liquids emulsify.

Cook the soba noodles in large pot of boiling salted water, per package instructions, or until just tender. Drain and rinse under cold running water. Shake off as much of the excess water as possible, then leave to dry in the colander or on a tea towel. While the noodles are still warm, place in a large bowl and toss with dressing, cooked squash, onions, kale, some of the seaweed, and most of the herbs. Garnish with remaining seaweed, remaining herbs, and peanuts and serve warm.

IMG_3372

Advertisements

Vegan chia date pudding.

1-DSC_0509
1-DSC_0537

Spring has sprung!

I think all that cooking her to us worked.

 1-DSC_0538 1-DSC_0559

The urge to frolic is irresistible. The sun is up longer each day. Warm bursts of wind shake tiny buds on cherry trees.  Daffodils peak up from their winter hibernation underground. We might’ve lost a Daylight Savings hour but we’ve gained so much more.

1-DSC_0339-001

Six weeks. Six weeks. Next week the mantra will become five weeks, five weeks. I know it’s important to be in the present, but I can’t help counting down the days to graduation and Seattle and summer.

1-DSC_0340-001

I make light chia pudding with vanilla and sweet dates to stay in the present.

1-DSC_0489
1-DSC_0358-001

If you haven’t experienced the wonder of the Chia (and no, I’m not talking about those green, sprouted cha-cha-chia! heads and pets) then get thee self to the grocery store and buy yourself a bag. They’re rich in omega-3s, protein, fiber, and antioxidants. Chia seeds are easier to digest than their flax seed friends and lower in fat. And they’re a great vegan substitute for eggs when making pudding because they contain a compound that creates gelatinous texture.

1-DSC_0345

I’m a fan of vegan food; I shamelessly crave hunks of Tofurkey, strips of smoky Seitan, and a vegan friend’s marinated-broiled tofu. But my world is too enamored with Gruyère cheese and Eggs Benedict to renounce dairy and eggs completely.

Almost all the chia pudding recipes online are vegan. These puddings satisfy a sweet custard craving yet lack the layered, creamy texture that you achieve with dairy. A couple days ago my mom created the non-vegan version below. We haven’t stopped chanting the cha-cha-chia theme song since.

1-DSC_0444-001 1-DSC_0446 1-DSC_0459 1-DSC_0462-001

Vanilla-Date Chia Pudding: Vegan/Non-Vegan

Non-Vegan

Serves 4 (makes about 2 1/2 cups.)

1/4 cup chia seeds
1 cup milk
1 egg7 Medjool dates, pitted and minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
handful of berries
maple syrup for drizzling and chopped dates and pecans for topping

  1. In a small saucepan, heat milk on low heat, stirring often, until steaming and then turn off heat. In the meantime, beat egg in a separate bowl.
  2. Temper egg by quickly whisking 2 tablespoons warm milk with the beaten egg. While vigorously whisking the milk, slowly add tempered egg to the saucepan.
  3. Add chia seeds, minced dates, vanilla, and maple syrup to taste while the milk-egg mixture is still hot.
  4. Garnish with dates, pecans, and berries and serve warm or cool overnight and serve chilled.

1-DSC_0544

Vegan Version

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, January 2012.
Serves 6 to 8 (makes 4 1/2 cups.)

 

1/2 cup chia seeds
1 cup (5 ounces) cashews, soaked in filtered water for 2 hours to overnight
4 cups water or almond milk
7 Medjool dates (5 1/2 ounces), pitted
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 Tablespoons coconut butter
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups mixed raspberries and blueberries
3/4 cup maple syrup, for drizzling

  1. Place chia seeds in a medium mixing bowl, and set aside.
  2. Drain cashews, and rinse well. Add cashews, water/almond milk, dates, salt, cinnamon, coconut butter, and vanilla extract to a blender. Blend on high speed for 2 minutes, and pour into bowl with chia seeds; whisk well. Let mixture stand for 10 to 15 minutes, whisking every few minutes to prevent chia seeds from clumping (pudding will thicken quickly). Refrigerate until cold, about 3 hours.
  3.  Serve with berries, dates, and maple syrup to drizzle.

Pudding can be refrigerated in a covered glass container for up to 5 days.

 

1-DSC_0542   1-DSC_0558