bringing an old favorite back to life
I love when themes accidentally develop in my cooking. Clearly, we’re all in some kind of noodle phase now and I’m not mad about it. First, we had the creamy cilantro pasta salad, then the pan-fried veggie noodles, and last week we had my favorite top-secret ginger peanut sauce with cold noodles. Let’s not stop a good thing, right? This week we’re going to revisit an old favorite from our first cookbook but reimagined since I first developed it 10 years ago: Grilled Eggplant Soba Noodles.
I was obsessed with these for years after I developed the recipe but as the years stacked up, I kind of forgot about it. After eating those soba noodles last week, I remembered how much I loved these eggplant noodles and set my mind into retooling the recipe to match how my palette has changed. It’s not just me either. All of us will experience food differently as we age. Taste buds dull, olfactory senses are diminished, and our preferences shift. Despite all the jokes, older folks actually need more seasoning on their food, not less, to make up for their dying taste buds. I’ll leave it up to you whether you think you’re in that category or not.
If you love the original recipe, stick with it. But in this updated version, I’ve pumped up the flavor by removing some of the water, moved some stuff around, and added more veggies. Similar in spirit but this new version is more complex in flavor than the original recipe. The grilled corn brings out the nuttiness of the soba noodles in a way that ties the whole dish together. I like to serve it warm or at room temperature with plenty of fresh basil and chives. It makes a great lunch at home or packed up for work, particularly if you work someplace where you can’t warm stuff up. If you want to add protein, toss in some edamame or baked tofu. If you’re not the biggest fan of eggplant, you could always switch it out for some summer squash, which would be its own kind of delicious.
Grilled Corn and Eggplant Soba Noodles
Serves 4 people or just 1 if you want to save this stuff for lunch all week. Fuck other people, they didn’t help you cook or clean.
½ cup rice vinegar
¼ cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoons avocado or similar neutral tasting oil
1 tablespoon agave or other liquid sweetener
4 cloves of garlic, minced
9 ounces of dried soba noodles
1 medium eggplant, about 1 pound
2 ears of sweet corn
½ cup fresh basil cut into thin ribbons
½ cup minced chives or green onions
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Mix up everything for the marinade in a glass. Slice the eggplant widthwise into ¼’’ disks and sprinkle them with a pinch of salt. Place the eggplant in a large pan and pour the marinade over it. Let the eggplant marinate for at least 15 minutes or up to an hour if you’ve got the fucking time. Shuck the corn and set it aside.
While the eggplant marinades, cook the soba noodles according to the package directions. Drain the noodles and rinse them with cool water so that you stop the cooking process. Place them in a large bowl and add the first tablespoon of toasted sesame oil and rice vinegar. Stir it all up.
When the eggplant is done marinating, it’s time to hit the grill. Warm up your grill to a medium heat, somewhere around 350 degrees and lightly grease the grates. Place the eggplant slices and corn cobs down on the grill but DO NOT throw away that marinade, okay? Each side of the eggplant slices should take about 2-3 minutes to cook or until you see some grill marks. If the eggplant or corn begins to look a little dry, brush on some of the remaining marinade and continue cooking them until done. The eggplant will be done cooking before the corn, so turn off one of your burners and move the eggplant to the cooler part of your grill while you finish charring the corn.
When all of the veggies are done cooking and cooled slightly, cut up the eggplant disks into ½ inch squares and cut the corn off the cob. Place them over the noodles and toss in the basil and chives. Drizzle over the remaining marinade (you should have at least ½ cup left) and the last tablespoon of toasted sesame oil. Toss with some of the sesame seeds until everything looks coated in the sauce and the veggies are well distributed. If the noodles look a little dry, add another tablespoon or two of rice vinegar to the mix. Top with sesame seeds and serve warm or at room temperature or cold.
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