My favorite appetizers are simple affairs: easy to make, easy to eat. These elegant little cucumber cups fit the bill quite nicely, with the added bonus of making it appear as though they were much more difficult to make than they were. Paired with a gin & tonic, these are a total dinner party win.
Cucumbers and soba are a classic pairing and one that never gets old for me. Buckwheat soba noodles have an earthy flavor that can be a little strong on its own but is just right when set against cool and mild cucumbers. The salty, vinegary sauce ties it all together.
These are little two-bite snacks, no utensils required. Soba noodles have a rougher texture than other kinds of noodles, so I find that they stay packed in the cup even after you take a bite. You can assemble them a few hours ahead of time, but since the noodles soak up the sauce, save a little to spoon over the tops just before serving.
Chilled Soba in Cucumber Cups
Makes one dozen, recipe is easily doubled
2 large cucumbers
4 ounces soba noodes (usually half a package)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 green onions, very thinly sliced
Peel the cucumbers and cut into rounds 1-inch to 1 1/2-inches thick. Scoop out the middles to create a cup. This is most easily done with a melon baller; you could also use a knife to make the initial cut and then use a grapefruit spoon or dinner spoon to hollow out the walls.
Bring a pot of water to a simmer and cook the soba noodles according to package directions, usually 6 to 8 minutes. Drain and rinse the noodles under cool water. Transfer to a bowl.
Whisk together the rice vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Pour half the sauce over the noodles. Add the green onions to the noodles, saving a few for garnishing, and gently toss the noodles to coat them with the sauce. Soba noodles are fairly fragile, so your hands tend to be the best tool for this task.
Pack each cucumber cup with noodles, twirling them slightly to help them settle in the cup. Pour 1/4 teaspoon or so of the reserved sauce over the noodles in each cup and sprinkle the tops with a few green onions.
Serve right away or cover and chill for up to a few hours. If chilling, wait to add the reserved sauce until just before serving as the noodles tend to soak up the sauce.
Cooking Extra: The discarded cucumber middles can be chopped for salad or used to make cucumber water.
Related: 11 Gluten-Free Asian Noodles
(Image: Emma Christensen)