A few weeks back, I was challenged by a friend and reader to take my favorite summertime side dish Szechuan Cucumbers (you can find the recipe here) and create an entrée. I thought a lot about this for quite some time and was basically stumped. One evening, I spied a package of soba noodles I bought at the Asian market several months ago. I found a bunch of different veggies in the refrigerator bin (including some cucumbers) and started creating a recipe in my big silver mixing bowl.
Soba are thin buckwheat noodles and take hardly any time to cook at all, more like 3-4 minutes to pasta’s 6-8. You can find these in the Asian section of your coop or supermarket. I really like them because they add a somewhat nutty flavor to any dish. I set my big Dutch oven on the stove to heat the water while I chopped the vegetables. I first julienned two carrots, making them small sticks. Then I took a cucumber, and so it wouldn’t be watery, I peeled, halved, seeded, and sliced it. I added a thinly sliced red pepper. I had some fresh radishes, so I chopped a couple of those as well as a little bit of sliced red cabbage for color and crunch. These could be optional if you don’t have them, or you could add more carrots, peppers, and cucumbers if you want more veggies. I finished with a lot of chopped scallions I had just bought from the farmers’ market. The veggies part were done. Now for the shrimp.
I’ve started buying frozen uncooked shrimp at my supermarket’s fish counter this summer. It’s fairly inexpensive when it’s on sale (one bag can make for two to three dinners) and are easy to defrost on a work evening, and just a few shrimp are nice to add to salads and pasta. I defrosted the shrimp, sautéed them with a finely minced jalapeno pepper and olive oil, and set aside to cool a little. If you have an aversion to spice, you can leave out the pepper or just use half; sometimes I find using a whole jalapeno is even too hot for me!
Now came the sauce. I thought something with a peanut butter flavor would be tasty. I took some rice vinegar, tamari (or soy sauce), and peanut butter and mixed together. A squirt (or two) of sriracha sauce for a little bit more heat, which is of course, optional for those who like it milder. I added the cooked noodles and shrimp to the vegetables, gave it a light toss, then the sauce, 1 tablespoon of sesame oil to avoid sticking, and then another toss. Served in deep bowls with a sprinkling of sesame seeds on top and dinner is ready!
This looks like a complicated recipe, but I made this on a work night and it’s mostly just a lot of chopping with minimal cleanup! I’m not sure if this fits the bill in terms of the challenge, but a dish involving shrimp, cucumbers, and Asian flavors made for a great dinner that night!
Soba Noodles With Shrimp and Vegetables
Of course, you can make this vegetarian by leaving out the shrimp and substituting tofu or some good beans!
• 2 carrots, peeled and julienned
• 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
• 1 large cucumber or 1 ½ pickling cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, and sliced
• 1 cup chopped red cabbage (optional)
• 2-3 chopped radishes (optional)
• ½-¾ cup chopped scallions (the measurements vary based on how much you like onions and how strong the flavor of your bunch)
• About 2 cups uncooked shrimp (I used extra-large, but you can use any size)
• 2 teaspoon oil, olive or canola
• 1 jalapeno pepper, finely minced
• 4 cups cooked soba noodles
• 1 Tablespoon sesame oil
• Sesame seeds
• ¼ cup rice vinegar
• 2 teaspoons soy sauce or tamari
• 3 teaspoons peanut butter
• A squirt (or two) or sriracha sauce (optional)
Add all the chopped vegetables to a large mixing bowl. Cook the soba noodles according to directions and add to the bowl. Cook the shrimp in a small heated skillet with the jalapenos and 2 teaspoons of oil until they are no longer pink, about 3 minutes or less. Add to the mixture.
In a small bowl, mix the ingredients for the sauce together. Gently toss the mixture together. Add the sesame oil and mix one last time. Serve in a deep dished bowl, top with a sprinkling of sesame seeds.