Soba noodles with veggies and marinated tofu


One of my biggest faults is that I cannot say no. If someone I know asks me to help them out with something, I can never refuse. Recently a coworker asked if I would volunteer to help with a special project she was initiating; as you might have already predicted, I said yes. The volunteering entailed working all day Saturday and Sunday at a book fair. The good news is, I like books, I like helping people, and as volunteers we got free bagels (and tofu cream cheese!). The bad news is, the work week leading up to the fair was overly hellish and demanding, and the last thing I felt like doing on my precious Saturday morning was go to work to, ahem, volunteer. However, I must say that all in all, iIt turned out to be a very rewarding experience and a fantastic event, and I was glad to have offered a helping hand to my coworker.

Regardless of these warm and fuzzy vibes, after seven hours of being on my feet and smiling at customers, I was not very hyped to go home and slave over the stove. But, that bagel was quickly wearing off, and i knew I needed to come up with a fast dinner option. I walked one block to a Japanese grocery mart and picked up some soba noodles (fast cooking buckwheat noodles), soba soup sauce (ready-made flavor!), mini mushrooms, extra firm tofu, and pickled radish, with the idea that I would add some snap peas from my freezer. My total came to $12.16 and I was well on my way to a quick, nutritious meal.

Instructions
First thing I did was drain and press the tofu with paper towel to remove most of the liquid. Then I sliced it into rectangles and marinated the slices in soy sauce and garlic powder. Next I put water on to boil in a medium sized pot for the soba noodles. After splashing a few drops of sesame oil into a large pan, I added the marinated tofu slices to cook on medium heat for about four minutes on each side. It’s important not to move it around to much, just like you’re searing a steak. I like it when tofu has a nice browned color and has replaced any sliminess with a slightly tougher, meatier texture and a deeper flavor.

Next, I added the soba noodles to the boiling water, and while they cooked, sauteed the miniature mushrooms with the snap peas in a little sesame oil until they were warmed through but still firm/crisp. This was to make sure that the crispness of the veges contrasts with the softer and chewier textures of both the noodles and the tofu. That is also the reason for the pickled radish garnish. It’s all about the texture combinations!

After five minutes, I drained and rinsed the soba noodles, added them back in the pot along with the soba soup sauce, and tossed to coat. To plate, I piled a heap of noodles, topped with the mixed veges, grilled tofu, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, and sliced pickled radish to garnish. Voila! And best of all, it was ready in under fifteen minutes.

This is a classic thrown-together meal from a quick grocery store run, that is easy, healthy, and has a lot of flavor (mostly from the soba soup sauce and the pickled radish - yum!). I needed the protein from the tofu after a carbo-loaded day and was glad to have some vegetables to restore my energy and balance.



Ingredients:
Sesame oil (or olive oil is fine)
1 package extra firm tofu
½ cup soba noodle sauce
Dried soba noodles (fistful, approx. 1 inch diameter)
Snap peas
Baby mushrooms
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tsp garlic powder
Sesame seeds (optional garnish)
Pickled radish (optional garnish)


Makes 2 servings

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