Category Archives: Salad

15 Minute, Healthy, Kid-Friendly Meal: Sesame Soba Noodles

Every Tuesday it’s my turn to make lunch for all of the kids at my son’s homeschooling cooperative. It’s tricky—while I want to make a lunch that all the kids will find tasty, I also want to use the opportunity to challenge their palates and open them up to new flavors. This is easy because A) there is a “courtesy portion” rule meaning that every kid has to try at least a bite or two before refusing to eat it and B) I know that there is sliced bread and some type of nut butter available as an emergency sandwich backup.

The most reliable way that I have found to get kids into new flavors is by introducing them via a familiar package. Some of the past lunches were lamb meatballs with the new flavor being lamb, and the familiar being the meatball-and-sauce package. Or, instead of rice and black beans, I made rice and lentils (mujadara).

Yesterday (Tuesday) I found myself quite flustered in the morning. You see, I’m used to working on pretty intense deadlines and I just made it through a wild twelve-week cookbook project that required I be at top game and also be hyper-organized. I turned the manuscript into my editor at Clarkson Potter on Monday afternoon, meaning that by Tuesday morning I was moving at zombie-speed. I tend to unravel a bit after a deadline, I’m loose and forgetful, I’m hazy, I’m sleepy. It subsides after a week or so. But I acknowledge that, yes, I get a bit dippy after a deadline (a huge sorry to the effervescent and ridiculously talented Melissa Clark who I interviewed one day post-deadline while I was at my floppiest).

So I found myself on Tuesday morning not knowing what to make for the kids. I nearly made (gasp!) pasta with butter and cheese. Shame on me, I thought. I opened the cupboards, rooted around, and came out triumphantly grasping a baton of soba noodles and a bottle of soy sauce. Kids love soy sauce and they certainly love spaghetti, so they’d surely love sesame soba noodles. Add ribboned carrots and chopped snow peas plus a dab of peanut butter and ginger for crunch, color, depth, and brightness and I had an easy-to-love meal that took (thankfully) barely a brain cell to make.

**I’m trying out a new recipe style below. Do you find it easier to follow? It seems that traditional recipe format doesn’t necessarily translate so well to blog-recipes, so am tinkering with recipe presentation. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Sesame Soba Noodles with Carrots and Snow Peas

Serves 4 to 6

This is a fantastic make-ahead dish. The sauce, noodles, and cooked snow peas can happily sit out at room temperature for hours without being compromised—keep the sauce separate from the noodles and wait to toss just before serving.

1. In a medium bowl whisk together:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey

Use a teaspoon to scrape the skin off of a:

  • 1-inch piece gingerroot

Grate the ginger into the bowl with the soy mixture, stir, and set aside.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add:

  • 2 bundles soba noodles (about 6 ounces)

Once the noodles have about 1 minute left to cook (when you bite into a strand, it will have a slightly opaque center), add to the pot:

  • 1 snow peas, thinly sliced on a bias

Boil the soba and snow peas for 30 seconds to 1 minute or until both are tender and the snow peas are bright green. Drain through a sieve and then rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and prevent the noodles from sticking together. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl stir in:

  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

3. Using a vegetable peeler, shave:

  • 2 medium peeled carrots

Once the carrots are completely ribboned, roughly chop the ribbons into confetti-like bits. Add the carrots and the sauce to the noodles and stir to combine. Serve with:

  • Fresh cilantro



Filed under Dinner, Recipe, Salad, Side dish, Vegetable, Vegetarian, Vegetarian Main

A Melon Salad that Goes Way Beyond the Fruit Cup

There are some people in the world you just don’t get along with. Nothing bad ever happened. There’s no drama to speak of. You just don’t mesh. That’s me and melons. We never made nice. Ever since I can remember I have eaten around the sad chunks of cantaloupe and honeydew in fruit salad and avoid the sample slices at the greenmarket. Melon? No thanks. I’ll take a peach, a nectarine, cherries, plums. Melons were for fruit cup chumps.

Then I ate the most perfectly lovely melon salad ever.

My visit to France was totally never meant to happen. I mean, I was pushing strollers in leafy brownstone Brooklyn with a neighbor who couldn’t stop gushing about how excited she was to visit her family in France. The South of France, near Grenoble, in Uriage-les-Bains, a small town known for their thermal springs. She said offhandedly (and in a French accent), “Raquel, you and Julian should come too! Stay with us, we will have a great time!” Little did she know that I would take her invite seriously, run home, and book my nearly one-year-old and I on a miles-purchased Lufthansa flight to Lyon post-haste.

I told her I got the ticket. “Really?” she said with shock. “Really?” she repeated.

A few months later, there Julian and I were, getting picked up by her dad in his old toasty meringue-colored pickup truck at the airport in Lyon. We drove south to the Chartreuse Mountains where her gingerbread  home was perched on a rise overlooking the limestone-faced slabs of the southern Jura range.

The air was pristine, clear, fresh. The hills dotted with wild flowers and tall grass. A generous vegetable garden flanked one side of the house. A kiddie pool on the other. “You left this for Brooklyn?” I said in disbelief. She shrugged.

My son ate his first chocolate croissant in Saint-Marcellin (yes, where the yummy runny-ripe ceramic-cradled cheese is from). We went to the museum of the walnut. We hung out with swans and ate crêpes in Grenoble. Homemade boeuf bourguignon, roasted just-dug potatoes from the garden, local wine, fresh baked bread every morning slathered with butter and maman’s home-preserved berry confiture were but a few perks. One afternoon we drove to my friend’s brother’s house and he prepared a gorgeous salad of fresh mozzarella cheese, diced prosciutto, chopped basil, and cantaloupe. It turned my suppositions about melon upside down. Before I could say charentais I was converted. Melon was obviously more than worthy of my undivided attention. It deserved to be showcased as more than just fruit cup filler.

That melon dish opened me to a world of savory melon salads. Whether using watermelon, cantaloupe, or honeydew, my tactic is to buzz up fresh tender herbs like basil, cilantro, or mint with water to make an herb water “dressing.” It’s like the brightest expression of herbs but in liquid form  (and it happens in like 30 seconds). The herb water effortlessly brightens every melon chunk, adhering in little bits to its slopes, and infuses every inch of the melon with its fresh breath.

In this recipe, I finish honeydew chunks with an herb water of basil, cilantro, and mint (even using one herb solo would work just as well). I add crumbled feta, the perfect salty bump-and-grind to honeydew’s sweetness, and then a chopped avocado for a smooth, buttery bite. A sprinkle of flaky salt and a healthy drizzle of olive oil over the top contribute essential savory notes. The last key is lime squeezed over the top to wake everything up. Melon salad can be modern. Interesting. Delicious. Just don’t call it a fruit cup.

Summer Honeydew and Herb Salad with Feta, Avocado, and Lime

Serves 8

1 honeydew melon, ends trimmed, halved, seeds scooped out

1/2 cup fresh basil, cilantro, or mint (or a combination of the herbs)

1/4 pound feta cheese

1 avocado, halved, pitted, and finely chopped

A few pinches flakey sea salt

2 to 3 tablespoons good, fruity olive oil

1 lime, halved

Set the honeydew on a cutting board so the concave scooped-out part faces down. Using a sharp knife, trim away the rind working in strips from top to bottom and letting your knife follow the white edge of the melon that separates the rind from the fruit. Slice the melon into small chunks and place in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Place the herbs in the bowl of a small food processor or into a blender jar. Add 1/4 cup of water and blend until very well processed and mostly smooth (you may have to add up to 3 more tablespoons of water depending on your food processor or blender). Set aside.

Take the honeydew out of the refrigerator. Pour the herb dressing over the top and use your hands to toss to combine. Scatter the feta and avocado over the honeydew and barely lift up the bottom layer of honeydew to combine. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt followed by a healthy drizzle of olive oil (I like 3 tablespoons, but 2 works fine). Squeeze a lime half over the top and serve with more lime wedges on the side.


Filed under Breakfast, Brunch, Dinner, Recipe, Salad, Vegetarian