Friday, July 4, 2014

Cold peanut soba noodle salad


Happy 4th of July to all my American readers!

Here it is a day like any other, but I thought this recipe would be handy for a last minute idea to take along to a picnic or BBQ (or a delicious salad for any other occasion if you are not celebrating Independence Day today).

It has been a while since my last real post, so forgive me, but last week we were away enjoying some of the glorious sea and beaches Italy has to offer.
We try to take days off every once in a while throughout the summer to get our kids out of the city, summer school and the sweltering heat (although we have been very lucky thus far) since we both work well through August. I will save you the whole spiel about the guilt of being working parents in a city where summer vacation lasts three months and it is normal for kids to spend most of them away in the country, mountains or at the beach with grandparents who double as fulltime baby sitters (and yes, I am aware this is a first world problem), because I already did that here. But the guilt remains and so we try to whisk them off whenever we can. 
This year, however, to be honest husband and I really needed it too.
Those who know me personally can confirm that I am not one to usually complain about feeling tired, worn out or unwell and I am always looking for things to do or places to go. I am usually quite happy being busy, but the past couple of months really knocked the wind out of us, for no particular reason, might I add. It was more like an accumulation of lots of little things: busy days in the office (at a job that is doing its best to suck out every last ounce of my normally positive attitude recently); the last month of school with its endless recitals, fundraisers, open-classes, parties, parent-teacher meetings, report cards, good-bye dinners, drinks, week ends and what have you. The related stress of constantly having to ask for time off from work to go to all the abovementioned gatherings and the running back and forth from them to work multiplied by the number of kids you have (how do you moms with more than two kids do it???) blablabla taxes in multiple countries blablabla bureaucratic deadlines for summer school, regular school,  after-school, you name it, we did it blablabla free lance jobs blablabla a birthday party to organize blablabla...
I am even boring myself, so I will stop boring you. But you get the idea, right? Because we all have periods like that, whether you are a stay-at-home parent or a working parent, whether you are a parent or not. Periods when you just feel wrung out.
So, on to what most of you came here for in the first place: a reasonably light, slow carb, refreshing meal full of texture and flavor. Something you can make on one of those busy evenings when you only have a handful of minutes to prepare dinner (or lunch). With the added bonus of being vegetarian and even vegan if you ditch the honey for another kind of sweetner.
I had never made Japanese buckwheat, or soba, noodles before. I have been seeing a lot of recipes around and since I am still trying to keep my carbs in check, especially at dinner, I knew I wanted to make them. I looked around and found a recipe on the Smitten Kitchen blog that I liked. I followed the basic instructions for the sauce but then garnished the salad with my own choice of ingredients. That is what makes this recipe so great: it takes under half an hour to make, it brings respite on a hot summer's day and you can pretty much use what you feel like or happen to have in the house.

Don't feel intimidated by the list of ingredients, if you cook Asian-inspired food, they are all staples.

Oh by the way, this recipe makes plenty of sauce, which is a good thing: we had the leftovers with stir-fried green beans last night and also used it as a dipping sauce for a grilled entrecote.

Peanut sauce
1/2 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup warm water
1 tbsp grated, peeled fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, grated
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp dried hot red pepper flakes

Soba salad
250gr dried soba noodles
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 small cucumbers, peeled and cut into bite size pieces

a bunch of coriander, chopped
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together in a bowl. I used chunky peanut butter for added texture, but you could also chop up some peanuts to garnish the bowl at the end.

Prep the cucumbers, scallions and coriander. Toast the sesame seeds in a pan and set aside to cool.  

Cook noodles following instructions on package or until tender (timing varies according to brands and whether the noodles are 100% buckwheat or not). Drain in a colander and rinse well with cold water.

Shortly before serving, mix sauce into the noodles. If you dress the noodles too early they tend to absorb all the dressing. Garnish with cucumbers, scallions, coriander and toasted sesame seeds.



  1. I love several things about theis post:
    • that we were both in the mood for cold soba noodles this week
    • that you are back online (I missed your posts !)
    • that you were able to get away with your family
    • that there is still plenty of summer left enjoy
    Have a great week! ~ David

    1. I am making these for dinner this week - I can't wait!

    2. The noodles were terrific, Fiona! The only thing I wasn't careful about was dressing them. I went too heavy on the dressing, but neither of us complained too much! :) The recipe is perfect! This is going in our standard rotation. ~ David

  2. Unlike you, I am constantly complaining about how tired I am from work and life in general—and I can remember how time-consuming the bureaucratic part of life can be in Italy, so I can relate!

    Even us foodies sometimes don't feel like or have time for whipping up anything elaborate in the kitchen, so recipes like this are a real godsend!

    1. Well, I have never heard you complain! ;o)

  3. I know exactly how you feel! Sometimes there's no real reason but you just need a break or retreat. I hope that you had a great 4th of July! :D

  4. One thing we loved about living in Milan when our sons were small is that one can whisk the family off for a day or a weekend and, whether close or far, there was always something fabulous to visit, something beautiful to see. We still miss it. But I do agree with you about needing family time, down time. It is a combination of the stress of everyday life and just needing to bring the family together without all the day to day stuff and just be a family, have fun, talk and laugh. We still need this even as the kids become adults. I love this cold peanut soba noodle salad and I'll make this for my family as soon as I get back to France.

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  6. PS am eating this right now!


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