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The last weekend of May was a bright and sunny affair in Stockholm. I biked around wearing a skirt and a sleeveless top. We drank cold beers on sunny patios. Paul and I planted a little garden on our patio. I even got a touch of a sunburn one day. And then, June arrived. What the heck?! The temperature plummeted, the skies opened up, and it’s all I can do to stay warm and dry. It feels very much like a winter day in Vancouver, except we’re now seeing 3:30am sunrises and 10pm sunsets. The universe is clearly confused.

This soba noodle salad is perfect picnic fare, if only the weather would actually let us picnic. Soba noodles, crisp little cubes of tofu, just barely wilted spinach, and walnuts come together with a tangy miso dressing. It’s gluten free thanks to the buckwheat soba noodles, vegan, and totally customizable. Swap out the spinach for whatever greens you’ve got on hand. Leave out the tofu if you’re not into it, or exchange it for another protein. Edamame? Tempeh? Shrimp? Chicken? Whatever, it’s totally your salad.

I made a full batch of this salad with a mind to pack it for my lunches on a week that I wasn’t really in the mood for sandwiches (it happens occasionally). I ate some, freshly made, immediately after photographing the dish, and it was tremendously good. The rest, I packed into four little containers for the rest of the week. On day two, the salad was every bit as good as it had been on the first day. On day three, it was still holding up well. On day four the soba noodles were starting to break down into a goopy, unpalatable mess. On day five I resorted to picking out the tofu and nuts and chucking the rest way, I absolutely could not choke the noodles down.  I hate wasting food, but a lesson was learned; this salad does not store well. I imagine that if you made the salad and kept it un-dressed  it would last much better, but I think I’ll continue to think of it as having a three day limit.

Soba Noodle Salad With Spinach Recipe:

The flavour of the dressing here will change depending on what kind of miso paste you end up using. The darker the paste, the saltier and stronger the flavour will be. I’ve used a red miso, which is pretty middle of the road.

Recipe adapted from The Food Matters Cookbook

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225g (9 oz) package of soba noodles

250g package of extra firm tofu, cubed

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

200g baby spinach leaves

1/2 cup chopped green onion

1/2 cup walnuts

2 Tbsp soy sauce (I used Bragg)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 Tbsp miso paste

2 tsp brown sugar

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Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and cook them until they are just al dente, about 5 minutes. Drain the noodles into a colander, and rinse under cold running water. Set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, toast the walnuts until they are just fragrant. Set aside to cool, and once they have cooled enough you can handle them, chop them roughly.

In the same skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the cubed tofu, and sautee, stirring often, until the cubes are golden brown and slightly crispy. Remove them from the skillet onto a plate lined with paper towel to drain a bit of the oil off. While the skillet is still warm, add the baby spinach and sautee it for a minute or two, to just barely wilt it down.

In a large bowl, whisk together soy sauce, lemon juice, miso, and brown sugar. Add the noodles, tofu, spinach, walnuts, and green onion, and toss well. Serve immediately.

Know what you’re eating: what’s good about this? 

Soba noodles are made from buckwheat, which is actually a fruit seed (related to rhubarb!), not a cereal grain, and is safe for those who are sensitive or intolerant to gluten.  Buckwheat is a source of manganese, magnesium, copper, and dietary fiber. Spinach is an excellent source vitamin K, magnesium, manganese, and calcium (good for your bones), folate, potassium, and vitamin B6 (good for your heart), iron, vitamin B2, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. And, spinach is a great source of dietary fiber. Although tofu isn’t my first choice for healthy soy products, it is a good source of protein and of nutrients like zinc, calcium, and iron. Walnuts are a rice source of monounsaturated fats (good for your heart) and a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Walnuts also have antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties which are protective against cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes. Remember that like all nuts, walnuts are calorie dense, so we’re consuming them in moderation.

If you’re concerned about the sodium content in miso, give this a read.

Do ahead: This salad can be made in advance and refrigerated for several hours before serving. It is best served the day it is made (see above).

All text and photos © The Muffin Myth 2012

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