G Daniela Galarza
THE WASHINGTON POST – The other day I went to a dinner party, and the topic of Los Angeles came up. That’s when I realised it’s been a full decade since I lived in LA; I moved back East in 2013. I cherish my time in that city, when I felt young and frisky, especially enthusiastic and ambitious, more optimistic – or maybe just more naive.
After growing up in Chicago and spending my early 20s in New York City, I moved to Los Angeles in 2006 and encountered what felt like another planet. It took me awhile to settle into the city’s rhythms and to embrace its unique perspectives, but once I did, I grew to love it: long drives, local produce, taco trucks, mountain hikes, Hollywood gloss, beach days, surfer lingo and even – even! – the green juice. In fact, it’s the verdant vibes of green juice, that now-ubiquitous Southern California staple of blended or juiced green vegetables and herbs, that inspired this recipe for Green Sesame Soba Noodles.
It started as a bowl of soba noodles dressed with sesame oil that I made for lunch one day. The next day, I mixed a sauce of sesame paste, lime juice and sliced scallions. At the last moment, I topped it with a pile of spinach and cilantro. As I ate it, I realised that the toppings might be even better if I put them in a blender. When I tried it, I ended up with a rough green-juice-tahini-sauce mash-up. It was pretty good, but something was missing.
I added soya sauce and garlic to perk things up. That worked, but something was still off. It wasn’t until one of my editors, Olga Massov, suggested I try adding a touch of sweetness that the sauce’s flavour clicked into place. A spoonful of maple syrup smoothed out the harsh taste of the garlic and scallions, softened the grassy cilantro, and enhanced the spinach’s natural sweetness.
Drizzled over freshly cooked soba, it made a sesame noodle bowl that sings of spring.
Perhaps the best compliment came when food stylist Nicola Davis made it. After one taste she pulled me aside and gushed: “I could eat this straight off a spoon – never mind the noodles!”
While the sauce is great over soba, it works just as well as a salad dressing or a sauce for seared or roasted chicken or fish. Swirl it into plain yoghurt for a simple snack, or drizzle it over roasted carrots or sweet potatoes for a side dish. Think of it as a workhorse, a real green machine.
GREEN SESAME SOBA NOODLES
– If you’re out of soba any other noodle will work. Spinach pasta might be nice.
– Instead of baby spinach, baby kale or arugula would work.
– If you don’t care for garlic omit it.
Fine salt (optional)
Two packed cups baby spinach
Half bunch fresh cilantro leaves and stems
One-third cup sesame paste
Quarter cup fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
Quarter cup water, plus more as needed
Three whole scallions, roughly chopped
One clove garlic, smashed
One tablespoon soya sauce, preferably low-sodium
One tablespoon maple syrup or honey
One package dried soba noodles, preferably 100 per cent buckwheat
Two tablespoons sesame oil
Two teaspoons toasted sesame seeds, for garnish (optional)
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat and salt it, if desired.
Meanwhile, in a blender, preferably a high-speed one, combine the spinach, cilantro, sesame paster, lime juice, water, scallions, garlic, soy sauce, and maple syrup or honey.
Blend until combined and flecks of green splatter the interior. Stop the blender to scrape down the pitcher. If the sauce is too thick, add more water, one tablespoon at a time, and continue blending until a smooth, green sauce forms. Taste, and add more lime juice, if desired.
Add the soba to the boiling water and give the noodles a quick stir. Boil until just tender, about three minutes. Drain, transfer to a large bowl and immediately toss with the sesame oil until well coated.