Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Nip Night: Soba Noodle Salad and Sesame Grilled Salmon

I don't like Japanese food, save for sushi and tempura. Otherewise, it can be a scary combo of bland and vomitous. But tonight, I decided to try a milquetoast version of a Japanese-inspired menu, including soba (buckwheat) noodle salad and sesame grilled terryaki salmon. First of all, as you may know, I think salmon is JV and I kind of have a like-hate relationship with it. But for a Tuesday night dinner, doctored up, it can be pretty fine. What made this dinner special was the layering of fresh ingredients. Instead of using store-bought, thick, gooey, corn-syrup terryaki, I combined a little brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and light soy. For the Soba noodles, similarly, I used light soy, sesame oil, garlic, and lime zest with ribbons of fresh herbs including (not so Japanese, but fragrant) basil , cilantro, and mint. There was a lot of chopping, including julienn-ing sweet red bell pepper and shredding of other vegetables. But the point is, despite all this chopping and assembling, the meal was quite simply fish and noodles. It came off well due in large part to the dressing and marinade. If you want an interesting flight of foreign fancy without (unlike the title of this entry) offending your mate/partner/spouse/dinner companion, try this--a far cry from fish sticks and Kraft mac and cheese:

Soba Noodle Salad (you can half this recipe, it serves 6):

4 ounces soba noodles, or whole-wheat spaghetti
1 large shallot, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shredded carrot 1 red pepper, julienne
1/3 cup shredded fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup shredded fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon walnut oil (or canola oil)
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce, or 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
6 large Bibb lettuce leaves
Boil noodles according to package directions. Drain and cool. In a medium to large bowl, combine noodles, shallot, carrot, pepper, basil, mint, and cilantro. Combine all dressing ingredients, season with salt to taste, add to noodle mixture, and toss lightly.
Snap off Bibb lettuce leaves and wash and dry. To serve, scoop spoonfuls of noodle salad into the lettuce leaves.

Sesame Terryaki Salmon:
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press or minced
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 4-oz Salmon filet
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
Combine the soy sauce, sugar, sherry, vinegar, garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and stir until the sugar dissolves. Transfer to a resealable plastic bag and add the salmon. Seal the bag and marinate the salmon in the refrigerator, turning once, for 1 hour. The salmon can be marinated for up to 4 hours.
Heat the broiler to high. Arrange the salmon on a broiler pan skin side down and broil until brown and crispy, 4 to 6 minutes. Flip the salmon and broil until almost cooked through, about 4 minutes longer. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and cook until the seeds turn golden brown or another minute longer.

*A light-bodied red, such as a pinot noir goes well with this meal. Try Abiouness from Carneros.

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