I also unearthed all sorts of wonders I’ve hung onto for far too long to get rid of now, such as my most prized possession of the year 1982, a hairband from the original Annie movie, my lifeguard certification card from 1996 and the dorky Ann Taylor shirt I was wearing when I met my husband in 2003, something you’ll no doubt see Stacy London clucking her tongue over one day when I finally land my own What Not To Wear episode (a girl can dream, right?).
I’d file the above objects under “Deb is weird but these things can be rationalized.” I cannot say the same for the darker stuff I insist upon holding onto: the tail end of any kind of food item. Much to my husband’s exasperation, nothing is too small for me to save, be it a single splash of soy sauce in a bottle, two cornichons in the bottom of jar or that last dusting of flour that never fits in my canister when I refill. Because how many times have we all been there, that place where you have everything you need for a recipe save one tablespoon of soy sauce? It’s like I believe if I don’t throw away that last glug when we don’t need it, I’m setting up enough karma that I’ll always have it when do, even though nothing in my cooking experience has even proven this correct. I have problems. I know this.
Fortunately, I found just the recipe to help these items on their way to the next world (our bellies) in my new favorite cold noodle dish. With a base of the miso that’s been languishing in my fridge for the better part of a year (good thing miso has a shelf life that rivals Twinkies), the aforementioned soy sauce whose existence is going to prematurely age my husband, limes leftover from a recent fajita night and some cut rate mirin I couldn’t bring myself to part with, the thin sauce for the noodles is refreshing with just the right spicy/salty/punchy kick. Buckwheat noodles (the kind you buy and forget about, if you’re us) are my favorite here, with a nuttiness that makes them so much more filling than their pale counterparts. And because only a small handful of vegetables are needed to fill the dish out, I got to make use of (I wish I was joking) the twelve string beans, single cucumber, four radishes and three miniature carrots we didn’t eat last week. You can use any you’ve got around; this is a flexible dish. What matters is that you try it soon, because it’s the perfect meal for a sticky summer day when dinner cannot be cold enough.
One year ago: Strawberry, Lime and Black Pepper Popsicles
Two years ago: Mediterranean Baked Feta with Tomatoes
Three years ago: Naked Tomato Sauce
Four years ago: Sweet and Smoky Oven Spare Ribs
Five years ago: Roasted Carrot and Avocado Salad
Six years ago: Blueberry Crumb Bars and Napa Salad with Buttermilk Dressing
Seven years ago: Summer Berry Pudding
Cold Noodles with Miso, Lime and Ginger
Adapted, just a bit, from David Tanis
Serves 4 as a light meal or appetizer; for bigger appetites, you might want to double this
Noodles and vegetables
8 ounces buckwheat noodles
A mixture of raw vegetables of your choice (such as carrots, cucumbers, radishes or daikon; see Note for more suggestions)
2 to 3 tablespoons miso (red is recommend; white would be just fine)
1 2-inch piece ginger, finely grated
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne, or to taste
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice (from about 1 lime), plus lime wedges for serving
Cook the noodles in well-salted water until tender but firm for the time recommended on your package of noodles. What, your package is only in Japanese, like mine? Most are cooked between 5 and 8 minutes, so test at 5 and add more minutes if needed.
Meanwhile, grate, julienne or thinly slice vegetables of your choice.
Drain noodles and run cold water over them to cool. Drain again, shaking out excess water.
Make the dressing by whisking the smaller amount of miso plus the remaining sauce ingredients in a bowl. Taste and adjust to make sweeter (with more sugar) or more intense and salty (with the last tablespoon of miso) if desired.
Divide noodles among four bowls; toss each with a tablespoon of the sauce, plus more to taste. Top with vegetables and extra droplets of sauce. Serve with lime wedges.
The leftovers won’t keep well with the sauce on. It’s best to keep it in one container and the noodles and vegetables in another, combining when needed, if you have extras.
- Mirin is a rice wine, similar to sake but lower in alcohol and much more sweet. If you can’t find it or don’t wish to buy it (a bottle of the basic stuff is usually around or just under $5), you might try using sake, or a mixture of rice vinegar, sugar and white wine or just water, I’d say 1 tablespoon of each liquid plus 1/2 teaspoon sugar to replace the 2 tablespoons of mirin recommended below.
- If you have access to an Asian grocery store (New Yorkers, I use the M2M shops often), see if you can find 100 percent buckwheat soba noodles (which would also be gluten-free); they’re inexpensive and wonderful here. Mine had a mix of buckwheat and wheat flour, which is more common. If you cannot find them, you can use rice noodles or even spaghetti in a pinch. Here’s a good read on different Asian noodles.
- Use whichever medley of cold, crunchy vegetables you’d like here; Tanis recommends daikon (a long, white mild radish), cucumber, radishes, radish sprouts and shiso leaves; I cleaned out my produce drawer with some julienned carrots, thinly sliced string beans, radishes, cucumbers and some wasabi micro-greens I couldn’t resist at the Greenmarket. Tanis suggests soaking grated daikon in the sauce, which I have no doubt mellows it, but I wanted to keep things simpler here.
- I should forewarn that 3 tablespoons of red miso (a saltier, more intense version of white miso; you can use white miso here too if you don’t have red) will make a very salty sauce. We liked it, but we also used just a little per bowl. You can use the full amount and go easy on the sauce as we did, bump up the sugar, or you can start with less of the miso and only add more to taste. I’m recommending the latter above.