Saturday, April 21, 2012

Black Sesame Otsu

At first glance this dish looks a bit like noodles tossed with black sand with a plop of caviar on top.

Fortunately, the taste makes up for the appearance.. unless, you know, sand and caviar are your thing..

I came across this dish on 101 cookbooks, and was a bit skeptical at first. Black sesame seed paste tossed with soba noodles sounded a little bland to me, but I had everything on hand so I decided to give it a go. 

So. Freaking. Delicious..

Black sesame seeds are toasted in a pan 'till fragrant (along with some sunflower seeds) ground up, then tossed with some mirin, sesame oil, tamari, rice vinegar, a touch of sugar and a pinch of chili flakes for heat. Tossed with buckwheat soba noodles and some fresh herbs, this Asian inspired one dish meal is perfect for those nights where you need something quick and healthy in your belly before you collapse from low blood sugar.

I usually turn to this dish when the fridge is barren and there is not a vegetable in sight (other than a bunch of limp celery that somehow got lost behind a six pack of beer). 
However, this dish is great with some pan fried tempeh or tofu, some lightly steamed vegetables, a handful of kale or even some shelled edamame.

Black Sesame Otsu (serves 2-4)
Adapted from 101 cookbooks

2 t. sunflower seeds
1/2 c. black sesame seeds
1 1/2 T. tamari
1 1/2 T. organic sugar
2 t. mirin
2 T. brown rice vinegar
1 T. toasted sesame oil
1/2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
12 oz. buckwheat soba noodles
1/3 c. scallions, sliced
1/2 c. cilantro leaves
2 c. kale, thinly sliced (opt)
1/2 T. flax oil (opt)

Toast the sunflower seeds in a pan over medium heat until golden, shaking the pan regularly. Add sesame seeds to the pan and toast for a minute or so, constantly tossing in the pan. Remove from the heat when you smell a hint of toasted sesame. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until you achieve a coarse sand like texture.  Place sesame seed mixture in a large bowl. Stir in the tamari, sugar, brown rice vinegar, sesame oil and crushed red pepper flakes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously, add the soba and cook according to the package instructions, until tender. Drain, reserving some of the noodle cooking water, and rinse under cold water.
Reserve a heaping tablespoon of sesame paste, then thin the rest with 1/4 c. of the hot noodle water.
In a large bowl, combine the soba noodles, half of the scallions and cilantro and the sesame seed paste and toss gently to combine. If you are adding tofu, tempeh or any other vegetables do so at this point. (In this case I massaged 2 c. thinly sliced kale with some flax oil and added it to the noodles).
Serve topped with a dollop of the sesame seed mixture and the remaining scallions and cilantro.

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