Salad of the Month: Chilled Noodles with Avocado and Cucumber
Chilled noodle salads make perfect warmer weather meals as they are simultaneously refreshing and satisfying. Here, the earthy flavor of soba noodles, made from a combination of buckwheat and wheat, are enlivened by tangy rice-vinegar-pickled cucumbers and a zippy dressing made with ginger and shiso.
Shiso, also known as perilla, is a member of the mint family, and the leaves are commonly used as a garnish in Japanese restaurants. Shiso has an aromatic flavor that pairs perfectly with Asian flavors and avocado. You can find shiso leaves at farmers markets in summer through early fall and grocery stores specializing in Japanese ingredients.
Soba Noodle Salad with Avocado, Pickled Cucumbers and Shiso Dressing
Serves 4 to 6
For the pickled cucumbers:
2 medium to large cucumbers
3 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons tamari, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons peeled and finely grated ginger
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
10 shiso leaves, plus more to garnish
For the salad:
1 (8-oz) package soba noodles
2 scallions, thinly sliced
2 ripe avocados
Toasted black sesame seeds, to garnish
Pickle the cucumbers: Shave the cucumbers on a mandoline or cut them as fine as possible (you should have about 2 cups). Place them in a bowl and add rice vinegar and a large pinch of salt. Mix to combine and set aside.
Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine tamari, rice vinegar, garlic and ginger. Drizzle in oils and mix well. Stack the shiso leaves and roll them up tightly, and then finely slice them into thin strips. Stir them into the dressing.
Make the salad: Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add noodles and cook according to the package directions. Drain, rinse thoroughly with cold water and drain again.
Place noodles in a large bowl, and drizzle with dressing and mix until evenly combined. Add cucumber pickles and their juice and mix again. Season to taste with sea salt or tamari. Add scallions and avocado and gently toss to combine. Season to taste and garnish with black sesame seeds and shiso leaves.
Amy Chaplin is a chef and recipe developer in New York City.
Photo by Stephen Johnson