March 12th, 2012
This quick dinner has become a weekly standby. The Hungry Boys, big and little, love soba noodles. We’re all obsessed with the tangy dressing. Bok choy is super healthy and, for the green veggie averse among us, also super mild. And I get to cook with a new favorite ingredient, coconut oil.
Oh, wait. There’s more: this one-bowl meal can come together in 20 minutes.
What’s that? You want this to be a weekly standby in your house, too?! No problem. Here’s the deal…
I started cooking dark, leafy greens in coconut oil about 6 months ago. It’s been a revelation for which I have Melissa Clark to thank. I was familiar with the tropical oil—which, perhaps confusing, comes solid—from experimenting with gluten free baking and making homemade magic shell, but I hadn’t considered uses beyond that. Also, somewhere in the back on my head, I was holding onto to the misconception that coconut oil was highly unhealthy. As it turns out, coconut oil is not horrible for you and is good for cooking more than just sweet treats.
Coconut oil has a lovely sweetness that balances dark bitter greens and gifts a subtle coconut flavor. Refined coconut oil will give just the slightest hint of flavor, while unrefined will pass along a delicate, but true coconut essence. I could barely detect the coconut flavor in this soba salad until I got a bite of noodles particularly tangled with bok choy. Then, for just a moment, it was there: a nutty sweetness that gave this tangy dish a luscious, unexpected warmth.
I add crisped tofu to this soba dish, but you don’t have to. If you do, it’ll take an extra 45 minutes of unattended roasting time. (I roast the tofu while making breakfast and packing lunch in the morning and, once it has cooled, leave it covered on the counter all day.) You can also add more veggies to this dish in a snap—raw, julienned peppers, carrots and cukes are a prefect garnish.
1 14-ounce block of extra firm tofu, optional
Canola oil spray, optional
1 10-ounce package of dried soba noodles
2 tablespoons coconut oil (I prefer unrefined for this recipe)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 lbs baby bok choy (you can substitute bok choy), cleaned and chopped
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 tablespoon honey (substitute brown sugar if sharing with kids under 1-year-old)
Finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 a large lemon
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
A squirt of Sriracha or other chili sauce, to taste
1. If using tofu, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the block of tofu laterally into thirds, and then into bite size pieces. Pat pieces dry and spray both sides with oil before placing them on a baking sheet. Bake tofus in the oven until pieces crisp up and turn golden brown, about 40-45 minutes. Set aside. If crisping the tofu ahead of time, allow to cool completely before putting pieces in a bowl, covering with aluminum foil and leaving on the counter for up to 10 hours.
3. In the meantime, cook soba noodles according to package instructions. Once drained, set aside in a large mixing bowl.
4. While noodles are cooking, sauté bok choy: add coconut oil and garlic to a wide sauté pan or wok set over medium-high heat. Once garlic just begins to turn golden brown around the edges, add chopped bok choy. Toss to coat well and sauté until wilted and bright green, about 3 minutes. Turn off heat and, using tongs, remove bok choy from pan, leaving any cooking liquid behind. Place bok choy in a small bowl and set aside.
5. Make dressing: combine all remaining ingredients in a jar, seal and shake.
6. Using tongs, transfer bok choy to the large bowl with the soba noodles, leaving behind any additional liquid that has accumulated. Add tofu and dressing. Toss to coat. Serve warm, room temperature or cold—it’s delicious each way.
*Note: If serving to beginner eaters, be sure to keep from over crisping the tofu. You may even want to take your child’s portion out of the oven early, to ensure that it remains soft. Take care to cut noodles and bok choy in to age appropriate bite sizes. Your little one will have a blast slurping up these noodles and noshing on the tofu!
A note on buying coconut oil: I’ve tried several and found that Dr. Bronner’s brand is my favorite. Yes, the soap company makes fair trade and organic virgin coconut oil that is fresh-pressed and unrefined. (Their white kernel has a flavor akin to other brands’ refined oil, while Dr. Bronner’s whole kernel tastes more like what other brands called unrefined.) I first tried Dr. Bronner’s as a free sample provided by the company, but have since purchased their oil. They have not sponsored this post or paid me in any way—I’m sharing my favorite brand with you as a matter of course.
What’s your favorite thing to make with coconut oil? Which brand is your favorite?