Sesame Chili Soba Noodles with Kale

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I’ve been a dedicated – and admittedly uncool – brown-bagger for as many years as I’ve been working a full time job. More than just the limited food options nearby, I bring my lunch to eat healthy and stretch my paycheck.

This is the sort of dish that makes it easy to bring your lunch to work. Quick to make, packed with toasty sesame and warm chili flavors, and effortlessly vegan. It’s all about making meals play double duty – you know, cook once, eat twice.

I made this soba noodle dish after a Sunday shopping excursion when I returned home ravenous. I whacked it together in a few hasty minutes and gobbled it up even quicker.

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Vegetable Miso Ramen

vegetable miso ramen #voraciousvander

While we’re talking food hugs. Let’s talk about miso broth and noodles.

I mean, if warming and satisfying are what you’re after, a big bowl of flavorsome broth,  full of veggies and noodles is a good way to go.

It’s the perfect sick person food. Or well person food. Or tired and hungry person food.

This, paired with some sassy comments from Maggie Smith, is guaranteed to soothe most troubles away.

I have limited ramen knowledge, but I know that there are a few different types of broth that can be used when fashioning a bowl of the noodle soup.

This is an easy miso-based one that requires little more than stirring miso paste into some simmering stock. It’s a simple way to get your bowl of goodness started pronto.

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Kale Pistachio Pesto with Soba Noodles and Oyster Mushrooms

vv - kale pesto soba

We’re moving on today. Moving on from November, moving on from the weekend, moving on from losing the contents of our hard drive and moving into the holiday season.

Kale, in my opinion, makes for a fresh start. I know it’s not time for resolutions yet (thank God) but let’s be real, Mondays are when we get back on track after watching terrible movies and eating too much cheese all weekend. (P.s. Can someone give me another free day to watch bad movies and eat more cheese with my fiancé, please? Thanks.)

That’s where the kale comes in. It rights wrongs, just because it’s so dang good for you. That’s how it works in my brain anyway.

Pesto has always been one of my favorite ways to dress up pasta, sandwiches, grilled vegetables and salads. Today, we’re making it even more excellent with the (SMASH! BANG!) super powers of kale.

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Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango

Yotam Ottolenghi’s book Plenty sold me with the cover. The rustic roasted eggplants with creamy buttermilk sauce, studded with pomegranate jewels. Exotic and gorgeous, yet familiar…

I was stoked when I received it in my much-anticipated Amazon delivery a couple of weeks ago – I couldn’t wait to dive into the beautiful photography and get some creative new ideas.

This dish from Plenty struck me as soon as I saw it in the eggplant chapter (yes, an entire chapter devoted to eggplant. How can you not love this book?) I am always looking for a good soba noodle dish  – I love their slightly nutty flavor and silky texture. This recipe called for the quirky combination of eggplant and mango. The bright yellow of the mango and browned eggplant woven through the sandy-colored noodles just looked like fun. I had to make this.

The sweet, ripe mango and velvety, savory eggplant pair really well together. I added some shelled edamame to give another bright pop of color to this already surprising dish.

Soba Noodles with Eggplant and Mango
Adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi – I decided not to shallow fry my eggplant and adjusted the measurements to serve 4 instead of 6.
Serves 4

- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
– 1 tablespoon of honey
– 1/2 teaspoon of salt
– 2 garlic cloves, crushed
– 1/2 fresh chili, finely chopped
– 1 teaspoon sesame oil
– zest and juice from half a lime
– 2-3 tablespoons oil
– 1 medium eggplant, cut into even bite-sized chunks
– 6 ounces/170 grams of soba noodles
– 1 cup shelled and cooked edamame
– 1 large mango, cut into even bite-sized chunks
– 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced into half-moons
– 1 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
– 1 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped

In a small saucepan heat vinegar, honey and salt for 1 minute, making sure the honey is combined with the vinegar. Remove from heat and add garlic, chili and sesame oil. Allow to cool and then add the lime zest and juice. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and cook, stirring for 2-3 minutes. By this time the eggplant should have absorbed most of the olive oil in the pan. Add 2 tablespoons of water and cover the pan with a lid. Let the eggplant cook for this way for about 10 minutes, checking on it and stirring once or twice. If the pan dries out add another tablespoon of water. Cook until the eggplant and its skin are soft but still retaining their shape. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook the soba noodles according to the package in salted water. When cooked through, drain and run cold water over them. Make sure the noodles are as dry as possible, blotting them on paper towels.

In a large bowl combine noodles, eggplant, edamame, mango, onion, dressing and half of the herbs. Mix well to combine. Let this sit for 1 to 2 hours before serving. Serve with the rest of the herbs.

Broccolini Chickpea and Soba Salad

Do you want to take a second to talk about the fact that it’s almost Christmas? You probably know this, but I’ve been working hard trying to remember.

I’ve made a playlist comprised of Mariah Carey, Tchaikovsky (what? my childhood dream was to star in the Nutcracker. I was a ballet nerd.) and Bing Crosby. I’ve baked my first batch of red sprinkle-encrusted cheer and I’ve even made a couple of paper snowflakes in a rare crafty moment.

And yet, I have barely begun my shopping and am crossing my fingers that my holiday cards make it to the States in time. It’s time for me to get a move-on.

Here’s a noodle salad you can make ahead so you can grab a bowlful between wrapping presents, addressing cards and baking glorious holiday treats. It’s good for someone like me, whose blood sugar level needs to be kept in check if I am going to accomplish anything. The spicy garlic dressing is a nice reprieve from all the candy canes too.
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Peanut Chili Sauce

Now might be a good time to tell you that I am a peanut butter fiend. My cravings for peanut butter and the high frequency at which they occur are borderline abnormal. I’m a fiend – but I’d like to think of myself as a fiend with standards.

My peanut butter criteria:

  • The only ingredient should be peanuts. Or roasted peanuts.
  • Make that organic peanuts/roasted peanuts.
  • Nine times out of ten, it’s gotta be crunchy (although, my current jar is not).
  • It should be kept in the fridge.

Often I just eat it straight out of the jar on a spoon, standing in front of the refrigerator. But for more civilized dining, I’m pretty open to any and all combinations involving PB.

While I am biased, it doesn’t mean that this sauce can only be enjoyed by fellow peanut-loving freaks. Evidence: Mr. F is generally indifferent to nut butters, and he gave it a glowing review.

This peanut sauce is a perfect combination of salty and tangy with a little spice to it. It’s just dreamy.

Peanut Chili Sauce
– 3 tablespoons of all-natural peanut butter
– 1 tablespoon of lime juice
– 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
– a couple of drops of toasted sesame oil
– 2 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
– 1 teaspoon of red chili flakes
– 1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger (optional)
– 2 tablespoons of warm water

Combine all the ingredients and whisk together. If it’s too thick to pour, add a little more warm water.

I combined cooked soba noodles, steamed broccoli, asparagus and tofu with the peanut chili sauce. Made in less than 15 minutes, this is a gorgeous meal to serve up on the fly. Use whatever veggies and protein you’d like. I’m thinking this would be really nice with some grilled prawns and red capsicum too.

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And before you go…

On the kitchen playlist: David Bowie, Album: Hunky Dorey

This gave me a giggle: Thanksgiving Drinking Game

First music, then fine art. Loving the new kind of meal pairing: Feasting on Art

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