Thursday, April 14, 2011

Soba Noodle Salad with Salmon and Asparagus

It's the most wonderful time of the year. Springtime at the farmers' markets, where stalls are overflowing with asparagus, ramps and rhubarb, and there's that sense of anticipation of what's to come -- strawberries, wild blueberries, zucchini, tomatoes, peaches and plums, all the best our local growers have to offer.

Recently my friend Bonita treated me to a fantastic meal that was the very essence of spring -- herb-crusted lamb, roasted asparagus, and rhubarb custard tart. It totally inspired me to pull out my cookbooks and spring issues of Bon Appetit and Fine Cooking and look for some new recipes to try.

And so, this Soba Noodle Salad with Salmon and Asparagus from the April 2011 Bon Appetit. Tons of fresh flavours here, from the grated ginger in the vinaigrette, to the tender green asparagus, to the chunks of avocado piled on top of the finished dish.

I've finally learned to be patient and wait until my pan is smoking hot before searing, in this case, the salmon. It gained a really lovely colour and a crisp exterior from only a couple minutes, each side, in the fry pan. I'm really loving grapeseed oil for frying, by the way. It doesn't impart a noticeable flavour to whatever you're cooking, and it has a high heat tolerance as well.

I really enjoyed this salad, and I can see it becoming a go-to dish as long as asparagus is in season.

Note: this salad doesn't keep very well. I did eat the leftovers for lunch the next day, but I picked out the baby spinach leaves as they'd gone soggy. It might be worth keeping some of the ingredients separate until just before serving if you plan on making this dish last beyond the one meal.

Soba Noodle Salad with Salmon and Asparagus
Serves 4

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
Fine sea salt
5 1/2 ounces soba noodles
1 tbsp vegetable oil (I used grapeseed oil)
12 ounces wild salmon fillet, skinned
9 ounces thick asparagus spears, trimmed, cut on diagonal into 1-inch pieces
3 1/2 ounces baby spinach leaves (5 to 6 cups)
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, coarsely chopped
1 tsp sesame seeds

Whisk first 5 ingredients in small bowl. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook soba noodles in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain.

Transfer to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well; transfer to large bowl. Pour dressing over; toss to coat.

Heat vegetable oil in heavy medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Cook until browned but still deep pink in center, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer salmon to plate, cool slightly. Wipe skillet clean.

Add enough water to skillet to reach depth of 1 inch. Bring to boil. Sprinkle sea salt over and add asparagus. Simmer until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain. Add spinach and asparagus to noodles; toss to incorporate evenly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Divide noodle salad among plates. Break salmon into bite-sized pieces. Tuck salmon and avocado into noodles on plates. Sprinkle sesame seeds over and serve.

Source: Bon Appetit, April 2011

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