Friday, March 1

Tofu, Brussels Sprouts, & Kale Soba

I’ve talked before about using cooking as therapy, and this is the kind of recipe (adapted from here) I find really therapeutic to cook. It actually can come together pretty quickly if you’re in a hurry, but if  you’re not, there’s something super relaxing about taking out a sharp chef’s knife and meticulously prepping and cutting the vegetables in this salad. I got home from work a little early, turned on some music, and spent the next thirty minutes neatly making ribbons out of a big bunch of kale and a bushel of brussels sprouts. The vegetables literally get massaged with some sesame oil and a pinch of salt, which does wonders to soften the texture of their raw leaves. Even though it’s a soba noodle salad, the dish is vegetable-heavy and full of strong, fresh flavors, which will do as much to cleanse the body as it will  the mind.

P.S. I added some tofu to make this a little more hearty and incidentally perfected the pan-frying method. The key is to pat the tofu really dry after removing it from the water (press really hard to remove as much liquid as possible), add it to a searing hot skillet, season generously with salt, and only flip once the first side has a deeply golden crust. It was my meat-loving fiance’s favorite part of the dish.

Tofu, Brussels Sprouts, & Kale Soba Noodles:
  • Slice the ribs out of 1 bunch of lacinato kale* and then thinly slice into ribbons.**
  • Thinly slice 8-12 brussels sprouts, discarding the tough stem.**
  • Combine the vegetables in a bowl and drizzle with 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil and a large pinch of salt.
  • Massage the oil and salt into the vegetables to coat.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together 1 minced red chili,*** 1/2 tbsp. grated ginger, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tbsp. rice vinegar, 1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce, and 1 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil.
  • Toss dressing with the vegetables and set aside.****
  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil and cook 5-6 oz. soba noodles according to package instructions.
  • Drain noodles and toss with the vegetables. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp. sesame seeds.
  • In another pan, heat 1 tbsp. canola oil until very hot.
  • Cut 8 oz. extra-firm tofu into matchsticks and pat very dry with paper towels.
  • Add the tofu to the hot pan and cook for 6-8 minutes, turning once, and sprinkle with salt.
  • Divide noodles into bowls and top with tofu.

Serves three-four
*Also called black or dinosaur kale.
**The best way to do this is to work in batches by stacking some of the leaves, then tightly rolling them, and then thinly slicing the bundled kale (basically chiffonading). For the brussels sprouts, a mandoline will make your work go quickly.
***I used a Fresno chile, but you could use something a little spicier if you want a lot of heat.
****If possible, try and let the mixture sit for 15-20 minutes. This will soften the vegetables just slightly.