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Roasted Eggplant, Tofu & Pluots Salad with Soba Noodles
Another wonderful vegetarian entrée salad featuring tofu, soba noodles, sweet fruit and eggplant. It would be great as a substantial starter or a main course. One could substitute any sweet fruit – I used a mix of plums and pluots – and offers a contrast of the savory/spice and fruity/sweet.
Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat and synonymous with a type of thin noodle made from buckwheat flour. It has a correspondingly strong, nutty flavor. Generally we find dried soba in packets, but keep your eyes open for fresh soba at Asian markets.
- 2 eggplants, about 1 lb., cut in ¾” dice
- Salt to taste
- ½ C sunflower oil
- 9 ounces (1 package) soba noodles
- 1½ Tb dark sesame oil
- 12 ounces firm tofu, cut in ½” dice and blotted dry
- 1½ Tb soy sauce
- 1-2 Serrano or Thai chilies, minced (to taste)
- 2 firm but ripe plums or pluots, cut in thin slices
- 1 C basil leaves chopped, torn or cut in slivers
- 1 C chopped cilantro
- 3 Tb chopped chives
- 1/3 C seasoned rice vinegar
- Juice and grated zest of 1 lime
- 1 large garlic clove, minced or pureed
Preheat the oven to 450 degree F. Cover a sheet pan with foil. Place the eggplant in a large bowl and season to taste with salt. Add 2 Tb of sunflower oil and toss well. Spread on the baking sheet in an even layer. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes or until the eggplant is soft when you pierce it with a fork and beginning to brown on the edges. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water up to a boil. Unlike Italian pasta, you do not need to salt the water for soba noodles. Once it is boiling, hold the noodles over the water and sprinkle them in strand by strand. Once all the noodles are in, stir gently so that they are all immersed in the water. Bring the water back up to a gentle boil, and then lower the heat so the water is just simmering. (This differs from the rolling boil that is recommended for pasta.) If the water threatens to boil over, add about ½ C of cold water. But, if you lower the heat to a gentle simmer and have a big enough pot, this should not be necessary. Cook for about 6-8 minutes, or following the package instructions. Test by eating a strand – it should be cooked through but not mushy.
Drain the noodles into a colander. When you are draining the hot water you may notice that it smells quite “floury”. This is what you want to totally eliminate. Rinse the noodles thoroughly under cold water. Take handfuls and gently swish about under running water. Your goal is to wash off any trace of starchiness or gumminess on the noodles. When you are done the water should run clear. Shake off as much excess water as possible, and then leave to dry on a dishtowel. Once dry, add the sesame oil and stir together.
Heat a wok or large heavy frying pan over high heat until a drop of water evaporates within seconds when added to pan. Add 1 Tb of the sunflower oil and the tofu. Let sit in the pan to sear for 30 seconds, then stir-fry until lightly browned.
|Cooking the tofu|
Add 2 tsp of the soy sauce, toss together, the remove from the heat and add to the noodles. Add the roasted eggplant and the minced chilies, the plums or pluots and all of the chopped herbs if serving immediately, half of them if serving later.
In a small bowl or measuring cup mix together the seasoned rice vinegar, the remaining soy sauce, salt to taste, the lime juice and zest, and the garlic. Whisk in the remaining oil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Toss the noodle salad, with remaining herbs, and serve immediately.
Modified recipe from Martha Rose Shulman