A few days ago, I was browsing my daughter’s photos on Facebook and I came across a batch that was taken at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC. Sadly, although I’ve lived in the Baltimore Washington region my entire life, I have never attended the festival, or for that matter driven through just to see the beautiful trees in bloom. The exact date of the festival varies (usually the first or second week of April) and, although the weather comes into play in determining when the trees blossom, usually the festival planners get it right.
Mid-September has arrived and I’ve already seen the leaves turning along the highway. With winter looming, it gave me quiet joy to peruse her photos of the festival-a time when the hope of warmer weather is in the air.
One particular photo caught my eye. It was a picture of our grandson sitting on the ground slurping up a serving of homemade noodles that was packed in a picnic lunch. I don’t know the ingredients in the noodle salad he was eating (note to self to ask daughter), but it got me thinking about a cold noodle salad I used to love from a place that doesn’t exist anymore that I can’t even remember the name of. The store was located next to David’s Natural Food Market. This place sold organic produce, had a hot and cold food bar, an organic coffee bar, daily hot soup bar, as well as harder to find (at least at that time) gourmet items and a catering menu. When cooking during the holidays, or heading to a barbecue in the summer, I would stop into this place and pick up a quart of noodle salad. One day I pulled into the parking lot to purchase some gourmet goodie, only to see “out of business” signs in all the windows. I cried (OK…not really, but I was crying on the inside). I remember sitting in the parking lot and calling my husband to comfort me. That noodle salad was gone forever, as were the platters of antipasti, fresh fruit, key lime pies, fabulous cheeses… Was I actually going to have to cook on Christmas now?
Truthfully, this noodle salad isn’t comparable to that beloved noodle salad of yesteryear. In fact, the noodle is the only thing they share in common, as the ingredients and flavors used in this recipe are different and wonderful in their own right. All of the ingredients I had in the pantry, except the broccoli and spring onions, which came from the CSA. Feel free to add any seasonal vegetable, such as asparagus or shredded carrot.
soba noodles with broccoli and peanut dressing
one 8 ounce package soba noodles
2 broccoli crowns, cut into bite size pieces
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/8 cup rice vinegar
one clove garlic, crushed
drizzle of sesame oil (not exact, I know. It has a strong flavor, so start small and add to taste)
pinch of red pepper flakes, or a pinch of cayenne
1/4 – 1/2 cup hot water
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup peanuts
Cook soba noodles according to package instructions. Be careful not to overcook. In the last minute or so of cooking, add the broccoli. Drain the noodles and broccoli, run under cold water to cool.
While the noodles are cooking, you can make the dressing…
Combine peanut butter, rice vinegar, garlic, sesame oil, red pepper, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Thin with hot water. This is where it gets a little tricky and you will have to experiment with the consistency. How much water you need will depend on the consistency of the peanut butter and preference. Natural PB is a little thinner than the more common brands. The first time I made this, it was too thick and creamy so I would advice to make it pretty thin.
Toss the noodles, broccoli, spring onions, and peanuts. Add the dressing a little at a time until it is the way you want it.
*By the way, if anyone remembers the name of the store I talked about in this post, feel free to shout it out…this is the kind of thing that keeps a person awake at night!!