April 13, 2020
One of my favorite online clothing retailers describes garments made with different patterns or fabric details as: ‘mixed-media’. And I thought it was an apt description for this dish of Japanese udon noodles paired with a hybrid Middle Eastern tahini sauce.
It is a versatile dish: make ahead or hold at room temperature to be eaten within 2-4 hours.
1 cup tahini
2 teaspoons red or yellow miso paste (miso adds the ‘sixth’ taste; umami seasoning)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped finely, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 to 1 ¼ cup ice cold water
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Noodles and Vegetables
1-pound sweet potatoes (I used a white-fleshed sweet potato which retains its firmness during roasting)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
½ bunch curly green kale
½ bunch scallions
1 ancho or medium green bell pepper
2-inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled, sliced and chopped
8/9-ounce package udon noodles (your favorite)
Optional: 6-ounces flavored tofu (I used a package of smoked tofu)
Optional: 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds as garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Preheat a heavy-duty sheet pan in the oven as the oven pre-heats.
Make the tahini dressing
Mix the tahini well, before measuring out what you need. I grasp a pair of sturdy wooden chopsticks to incorporate the always separated oil back into the paste. Use an excellent quality tahini…. not all tahini pastes are created equal. (Old tahini that has been on your shelf for several years could be rancid…just saying.)
Measure the tahini and miso paste into the bowl of a food processor. Add 2 teaspoons chopped ginger root and ½ teaspoon chopped fresh garlic. With the motor running add the ice-cold water slowly until a smooth dressing ‘emerges’. Adding water that is ice-cold will keep the dressing from coagulating. Pulse the machine on and off, adding the lemon juice, more water as needed and a scant teaspoon of kosher salt. Taste for seasoning and set aside.
Prepare the vegetables and noodles
Wash, dry and peel the sweet potato. Cut the sweet potato into small ¼-inch diced pieces. Toss in a bowl with 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil; enough oil to coat the pieces. Season with kosher salt, about ¼ teaspoon. Use an oven mitt and carefully pull out the hot sheet pan. Add the coated sweet potato pieces to the pan and return pan to the oven. Roast potatoes for 15-25 minutes until fork-tender. Cooking time will depend on how big (or small) the potato pieces are.
Wash and dry the ½ bunch of scallions. Separate the scallions into green & white parts. Thinly slice each color and keep separate.
Wash and shake-dry the kale of excess water. Tear the kale into 3-inch pieces and measure 3 cups, tightly packed. Rough chop the kale into smaller pieces and set aside.
Wash and dry the green pepper. Remove the core and seeds and cut into ¼-inch dice.
Dice the tofu into ¼-inch pieces and set aside.
Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the whites of the scallions and the diced green peppers to the pan. Stir. Add pinch kosher salt. Add 1 tablespoon chopped ginger root and 1 teaspoon chopped garlic. Stir to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until fragrant. Add ½ the total amount of prepared, chopped kale and another pinch of kosher salt. Stir to combine and cook until the kale has wilted; another 3-4 minutes. Add the diced tofu to the mix and stir to combine all.
Turn off the heat.
Cook the udon noodles in plenty of boiling salted water. Cook to ‘al dente.’ Drain, shake off excess water and put cooked noodles into a serving bowl. Immediately coat with a few tablespoons of the prepared tahini dressing. Toss to combine. Add the reserved cooked vegetables and the rest of the un-cooked kale. Coat with more dressing…to your liking.
Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds (optional).
Serve with extra dressing on the side.
A note about washing produce
Health officials have recommended washing, not just rinsing, all vegetables (and fruits) before using. And have recommended using a mild soap! I used very, very mild fragrance & chemical-free dish soap and washed all the vegetables in a mild-soapy bath.
I admit I was skeptical; I thought the end product would taste soapy. But it did not. Just be sure to rinse a few times until no traces of soap bubbles are left.
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