Saturday, April 05, 2008

Green Beans and Almond Salad
Nothing like a little inspiration from one of my favorite cooks and food writers.

Recently, Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks posted a lovely soba noodle and asparagus recipe with peanut dressing. It was the inspiration for this dish. Which is really nothing more than a copy-cat effort with substitutions. But it reaffirms my constant comment that making substitutions and performing variations on a theme is a good talent to have in the kitchen.
As long as it's not while you're baking. Then, adhering to the written directions and specified amounts is paramount to a successful outcome.

I like to include almonds or walnuts in dishes, adding the nutritional lift of protein along with the flavor and crunch these tasty guys provide. Peanuts aren't actually nuts they are legumes, which means, while tasty, they don't pack the nutritional wallop of a true nut. I've been using raw almonds and almond butter in place of peanuts and peanut butter and this is a good example of how to substitute one for the other.

With green beans currently in the markets at bargain prices, using them as the veggie for this salad was a no-brainer but the asparagus that Heidi used would do equally well. I whipped up the following luncheon dish in under 30 minutes. But, be advised: the green beans had already been washed, trimmed and blanched the day before.

I keep organic soba noodles, purchased at the local Asian market, on hand. As I'm usually cooking for one or two, I buy a neat little package that has the noodles divided into perfect portions of 3.1 oz little bundles. These are authentic Japanese buckwheat noodles and are simply made of organic wheat, organic buckwheat and water. Other than waiting for water to boil, they are virtually instant. Once added to the boiling water (much care should be taken as they boil over easily) they cook in 3 - 4 minutes. Drain and rinse and they're ready to go. You can add them to stir-fries, soup stock or eat them hot or cold with a dipping sauce or in a salad as above.

Green Beans and Soba Noodles with Almond Dressing
2 " piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cup creamy, almond butter
5 TBS mirin
1/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
2 TBS tamari
1 tsp kosher salt (I like the large flakes) but sea salt is fine, too.
1 pound of trimmed, washed green beans
1/2 cup sliced almonds, dry toasted
2 sliced shallots or fresh green onions
soba noodles 3- 4 oz (one stack)

Preparation requires 4 simple steps:
1. make the dressing;
2. blanch the green beans;
3. boil the noodles;
4. assemble.

1. Make the dressing: Using a small holed grater, grate the fresh ginger over a medium bowl catching all the juice and the pulp. You should have about a heaping teaspoon. To the same bowl add the almond butter, mirin, vinegar, tamari and salt. Use a whisk or fork to combine well.

2. If not already blanched, add the green beans to a large pot of lightly salted boiling water. Cook for 4 - 5 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. If beans are being prepared at time of salad preparation, carefully remove the beans from the boiling water with a large skimmer, reserving the pot of hot water. Return the water to a boil and proceed with soba noodle directions.

3. Bring a medium pot of cold water to a boil, add soba noodles (watch for overboil - lift pan from burner momentarily and turn down the temperature, maintaining a full boil.) Boil for 3 -4 minutes, drain in colander and rinse under cold water.

4. In a large bowl, toss the green beans, noodles and sliced shallots with as much dressing as desired. Add it slowly, napping all the ingredients. Scatter almond slices over the top to serve.

This is delicious at room temperature. Refrigerate if not eating immediately.

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