Like most of you I'm guessing, I go through serious lunch phases. This winter brought about a relentless breakfast burrito spree followed by a big run of avocado toasts topped with an egg. Lately though — now that spring is slowly showing its face — it has been all about soba noodles. In my humble opinion, there's no better way to usher in warmer weather lunches.
We've definitely written about soba noodle salads before here on The Kitchn. From making your own noodles from scratch to a simple summery Soba Salad with Bok Choy — these traditional Japanese buckwheat noodles are popping up more and more in cookbooks and on restaurant menus.
The noodles are often served cold or room temperature, are a great source of amino acids and fiber, and are the perfect blank slate for a nutritious lunch or side dish salad. Simply add seasonal vegetables, some seeds for crunch and perhaps a bit of avocado or egg, and you have a lunch that will sustain you through the afternoon.
So how is this salad special? First, it's asparagus season and I've been itching to work in a cold noodle salad using fresh asparagus. The sauce I use here is packed with flavor thanks to the miso, sesame oil, soy sauce and honey — it's used to roast the asparagus as well as season the salad itself. I decided to use black sesame seeds largely for aesthetics. I think they look so pretty against the stark light noodles and vibrant green asparagus. That being said, certainly feel free to use white seeds instead if it's what you have on hand. Last, the unexpected addition of sunflower seeds adds one more layer of crunch that I'm pretty smitten with. I think you will be, too.
This salad is the perfect light lunch, but it'd also be fantastic served with salmon or chicken. I'm starting to think ahead to summer dining in the backyard and quick, easy hiking lunches, and this one has both written all over it. In that way, not only is it perfectly in season right now, but it's giving me a good little glimpse of what's to come in the longer, warmer days ahead.
Miso-Roasted Asparagus Soba Noodle Salad
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons black sesame seeds
8- or 9-ounce package soba noodles (buckwheat noodles)
2 tablespoons red miso
1 tablespoon hot water
1 tablespoon sesame oil
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 pound asparagus, tough ends trimmed away
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 green onions, thinly sliced, white and light green parts only (about 1/3 cup)
Kosher salt, to season
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Toast sunflower seeds in a large, dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and slightly golden, about 5 minutes. Add sesame seeds and toast for an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
Bring a pot of water to boil and cook the soba noodles just until al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and run cold water through the noodles to stop the cooking.
In a small bowl, whisk together the miso, water, sesame oil, 3 tablespoons olive oil, soy sauce, brown sugar and ginger.
Heat remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then sauté the garlic and shiitakes until the mushrooms are just tender and starting to turn light brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir frequently to avoid sticking or burning.
Place the asparagus on a baking sheet and toss with 3 tablespoons of the miso mixture to coat. Roast for 8 to 12 minutes (depending on size of asparagus), or until stalks are soft enough to pierce with a fork.
When finished roasting, remove from oven and set aside to cool. Slice into 1-inch pieces. Toss the asparagus and remaining miso sauce into the cooled soba noodles. Fold in the green onions and cooked mushrooms. Season with salt, and top with toasted seeds. Serve room temperature. Cover and refrigerate leftovers for up to three days.
There are different varieties of miso at the store. I use red miso here for this recipe, but if you have the light or golden miso that will work just fine, too. Check out Emma's post on different kinds of miso available and which will suit you best.