Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Cilantro Pesto

Yummmmm. It looks and tastes too good to be healthy. Beware of midnight munching on this…

I’ve found that as long as I manage the oil used, I can save a lot of calories by consuming Asian noodle dishes versus Italian because they tend to include a lot of vegetables and never call for butter and cheese. And let’s face it, Italian pastas taste better with butter and cheese.

My father is Japanese, and my mother is a German hailing from the Midwest. Only as an adult do I really have an appreciation for the many dishes my mother learned to cook to suit my dad’s Japanese tastes. This recipe was inspired by a dish my Mom used to cook for New Years. You can make this a day ahead as a wonderful side-dish or you can add chicken and make it the main event. As a side dish, this easily serves 6. The leftovers are almost better than eating it fresh!

For the salad:

  • One 9 oz package of buckwheat soba noodles (or 3 little “bundles”)
  • 3 medium bell peppers sliced thin, it’s prettier if they’re different colors
  • 8 oz fresh sugar snap peas
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar

For the Cilantro Pesto:

  • 1 1/2 bunches cilantro
  • 3 scallions
  • 3 Serrano chiles
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 TBsp rice vinegar
  • 1 TBsp honey
  • 1 TBsp peanut butter
  • 2 TBsp sesame seed oil
  • 1 TBsp water
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (NOT table salt)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

1.) Start with the Pesto: If you want this dish mild, de-seed and de-vein all three Serrano chiles, the more seeds the hotter it gets. Roughly chop the chiles, scallions, cilantro, and garlic. Place in food processor with vinegar, honey, peanut butter, sesame oil, water, salt, and pepper. Blend thoroughly and check for taste.

Just dump everything into a processor, push a button, then feel like you accomplished a lot today!

2.) For the salad: In a large bowl, add the thinly sliced onion with the 1 tsp rice vinegar and toss to coat. After 5 minutes add the sliced bell peppers, sugar snap peas, and chopped cilantro. Boil water in a large pot and prepare soba noodles according to instructions (It usually takes less than 5 minutes for al dente). Do not overcook buckwheat noodles- they quickly turn gummy and fragile. Drain noodles and rinse with cold water. Drain again and add to the bowl with all the veggies.

3.) With everything in the large bowl, immediately top the noodles with the cilantro pesto and gently toss until all of the noodles and vegetables are evenly coated.

Calories: 272  – Fat : 7.4 grams –  Carbs: 44 – Fiber: 5.2 grams – Protein: 9.2 grams

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Broccoli Slaw

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Inspired by a Good Eats episode, I set out to make a healthier Broccoli Slaw! They sell a great broccoli salad in Whole foods but it’s plastered in Mayo. This uses raw broccoli that has been sliced thinly (less than 1/4″) at a diagonal. You could use a mandolin but I sliced mine by hand. I also added a good hit of chili flakes to give it a nice heat. They say spicy foods up your metabolism after a meal, but it’s probably just a bunch of hooey. Besides, who needs a metabolic reason to make something spicy?!

This has an Asian slant to it, and although I use a little honey and sugar you could theoretically substitute Splenda ( I just feel weird whisking powdered sweetener into a dressing. It just seems wrong).

Salad:

  • 1 lb Broccoli, sliced thin at a diagonal (’cause it’s prettier that way).
  • 1/2 C Red onion sliced very thin
  • 1 C Cherry Tomatoes
  • 1/4-3/4 C Roasted Cashews or Peanuts chopped (depending on how caloric you’re willing to go)

Dressing:

  • 2 TB Fresh Orange Juice
  • 1 tsp Fresh Orange zest
  • 1 TB Rice Wine Vinegar
  • 2 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 TB Honey
  • 1 TB Sugar
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 2 tsp Mustard
  • 1 TB Olive Oil
  • 1 TB Dark Sesame Seed Oil
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Red Hot Chili Flakes to taste

Prep all of your veggies but keep them separate. Prepare the dressing, adding the oils last. Whisk vigorously to combine. Add red onion to the dressing and let sit for 5 minutes.

Combine the broccoli, tomatoes, and nuts with the dressing. Toss to coat the broccoli well, then let it rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour, but preferably 3. It has to marinate a while so the salt can work on the Broccoli and give it a nice, manageable texture. Take out of the fridge at least 15 minutes ahead of time to let it come to room temperature before serving.

NOTE: DO NOT sub a bag of “Broccoli Slaw” stems for your own sliced broccoli in this recipe. This dressing wilt the little shreds until it’s an awkward texture.

Calories: 128  – Fat : 8 grams –  Carbs: 13 – Fiber: 2.5 grams – Protein: 3.5 grams