Vegetable & Soba Noodle Salad

It is officially spring in Washington, DC: my Instragram feed is full of cherry blossoms and the car is dusted with pollen.  Life is good again (as long as the tourists stick to the right side of the Metro escalator.  Seriously, ok? Right. Side.).

Spring means more happy-looking vegetables, even at our local Safeway.  It also means that fresh, quick & easy is the best way to do dinner.

This “recipe” comes courtesy of my sister, and before that, one of her friends.  Really, though, there’s no plan to follow here – just use the vegetables in your refrigerator.  Although as my sister wisely said to me, “I know you wouldn’t do this, but obviously don’t skimp on the avocado.”  OBVIOUSLY NOT.

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Soba Noodle Salad

  • 1 package soba or buckwheat noodles
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 head purple or green cabbage, shredded
  • handful sesame seeds
  • 1 avocado, chopped
  • a big handful cilantro, chopped
  • other optional toppings: feta cheese, shredded/cooked chicken, pan fried tofu, peanuts
  • dressing:
    • 1 part olive oil
    • 1 part rice vinegar
    • 1 part soy sauce
    • 1/2 part toasted sesame oil
    • 1 tablespoon or so honey, plus more as needed
    • juice from 1/2 lime
    • healthy dose sriracha
    • freshly grated ginger
    • s&p to taste
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook soba noodles until just before al dente, about 5-6 minutes.  Rinse immediately with cold water.
  2. Combine all of your chopped veggies (from bell pepper through cabbage) in a large bowl and set aside.  Whisk your dressing together; continually taste and adjust to your liking.
  3. Add noodles to veggies; top with sesame seeds & dressing.  Give the bowl a thorough mix with tongs and add avocado and cilantro.  Serve warm or cold.

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The Verdict:

Husband hasn’t passed the verdict yet, so you can be the judge…d’accord?

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Recreating Germany (on a Plate)

Last night, I returned from a work-related trip to the Motherland.  While my family and I have spent a fair amount of time in Germany, especially growing up and to visit with my grandparents, this was my first trip to Berlin.  So, after two and a half days of full-day meetings, I was ready to eat my touristy way through the city.

German fare is not for the faint (or cholesterol-sensitive) heart.  Germans love pretzels and croissants for breakfast and huge plates of (fried) pork schnitzel and french fries for dinner.  For lunch, they might dig into a huge plate of spaetzle (for the non-acquainted, a soft, egg-based noodle), and wash it down with a massive mug of beer. They have a well established “coffee break” around 4pm, consisting of a strong cup of coffee or a steaming mug of hot chocolate, accompanied by cakes and cookies.  (Side note: during one meeting, our German hosts apologized for the “cake and cookie situation.”  I thought maybe they were apologizing for adding to our expanding waistlines.  Turns out, they thought the variety of cookies and cakes that had been served was sub-par.  I guess eight different types wasn’t enough?!) In between spaetzle and schnitzel, a Berliner might dig into a “currywurst” – a deep fried sausage topped with a mixture of ketchup and curry powder.  If you feel the need for some veggies, your plate may come with a side of cabbage.  Or maybe a couple of cucumbers with some mayonnaise.**

Obviously, after I got home from the airport last night, I just had to re-create some of this for the Husband.

Slow Cooked Pork with Spaetzle and Braised Red Cabbage

  • Our go-to slow cooker pork recipe and ingredients, minus the mozzarella and arugula
  • Spaetzle (or any egg noodle)
  • For the Cabbage:
    • 1 small head red cabbage, quartered and thinly sliced
    • 2 tablespoons butter
    • 1/2 onion, chopped
    • 1 green apple, peeled and cut into thin slices
    • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 1-2 tablespoons honey
    • 1 teaspoons salt
    • optional: a dash of caraway seeds
  1. In the morning, get the pork cooking.  Refer back to our go-to recipe, and only go through step two (putting all the ingredients in the crock pot and setting it on low for 8-9 hours).
  2. About an hour and a half before dinner time, get your cabbage going.  Immerse the cabbage (cored and sliced) in a bowl of cold water.
  3. Heat the butter in a large dutch oven over low heat.  Add onions and cook until golden.
  4. Drain the cabbage slices and then add to the pot, along with the sliced apple, the red wine vinegar, honey, salt and (if  you like) caraway seeds.
  5. Cover the pot and cook over medium-low heat for about 60-90 minutes, or until the cabbage is soft.  Do not cook for too long – it will either turn to mush or turn bitter.
  6. About 15 minutes or so before serving, get water boiling for your spaetzle or egg noodles.
  7. Serve the spaetzle topped with pork and a side of cabbage.  Guten Appetit!
das schmeckt gut!
das schmeckt gut!

The Verdict:

Our pork (really, the Husband’s) is a go-to and there’s a reason why: it’s delicious.  Having spaetzle (especially fresh, which I carried on the plane back with me!) was a special treat, and took me right into my mom’s and grandmother’s kitchen.  This was true comfort cooking.  I’ve never made cabbage before, and to be honest, this recipe was maybe a touch sweet.  That being said, it provided the perfect tang and balance to the rest of our German meal!  The big bonus here: plenty of leftovers, which will serve us well this (short) Thanksgiving week.

** My description of standard German fare isn’t entirely fair, to be honest.  Germany – and especially Berlin – seems to be embracing the local and organic food scene a la Brooklyn 2009, with “healthy” cafes popping up everywhere.  I also saw a slew of vegetarian and even vegan restaurants, as well as restaurants from every culinary tradition one could imagine.  After all, Berlin is, at heart, an incredibly dynamic city with a very young and hip feel, even as it continues to sit at the heart of an incredible amount of history.**