salmon soba noodle bowls
Coming back home after a vacation is such a reassuring feeling. Aside from the part where I’m forced to confront the mountain of laundry that awaits me – forever that one item on the “Pre-Vacation To-Do List” that never gets crossed off - it’s one of my favorite things. I always enjoy the first few days back home after a trip because mundane things feel fresh again: sleeping in your own bed, being treated like a friend (rather than a maid who cuddles) by your cats, cooking a meal in your own kitchen. Of course, that first meal back is the highlight of a homecoming for me. And I’ve really been savoring it this week too. Almost immediately upon returning to our tiny (and always messy) apartment, I swan-dived right back into the deep end of homecooking, and I have been enjoying myself supremely (not just because it left the cleaning for Cos, either). I’ve made delectable yet virtuous dinners of all kinds, snacking cakes, easy breakfast fare (tell you about it soon!), desserts - the dishwasher has been running nonstop.
Today I’m here to share one of those delectable yet virtuous dinners, and I really think you’re going to be into it! Especially if you enjoy salmon as much as we do. I’ve mentioned before that salmon is the cornerstone of my weekly meal plan, so as you can guess, we have made this little diddy of a dinner more times than I could possibly count. The first time I made it, a couple years back, was actually the first time I had ever had soba noodles. I ended up taking quite a liking to them because of their nuttiness and firm bite, but if they aren’t your thing, rice noodles would work perfectly here too. Probably even regular ole spaghetti would work in a pinch, though I’ve never tried it myself. Honestly, I'd eat just about anything coated in this dreamy tahini sauce; it is downright drinkable.
Having made these bowls so many times, I have tweaked the recipe a fair amount. For instance, the original calls for poaching the salmon, which I sometimes do, but because I routinely overcook the salmon despite cooking it for less time than recommended, I often just bake it instead, low and slow. I also make more of the sauce than the original suggests, because I prefer my noodles to be on the slippery side. Slippery in a good way. That said, however, the al dente soba noodles tend to drink the sauce up almost entirely upon mixing, so the increased amount (1.5x the original) still only makes for a lightly sauced bowl of noodles; they certainly aren’t swimming. Despite the changes, the version you see here still retains the overall character of the original iteration – warm, luscious salmon and lightly roasted broccoli florets atop a tangle of tahini-sauced soba noodles, all speckled with little cream-colored sesame seeds. Simple and scrumptious!
4 ½ tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons honey
4 ½ tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 lime, zest and juice
1 bunch broccoli
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1¼ pound salmon fillet
1 (9.5-ounce) package soba noodles
4 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 handful coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
Sesame seeds, to taste, white or black
[If poaching salmon: 1 tablespoon peppercorns + ½ cup mirin or dry white wine]
If poaching the salmon, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. If slow roasting the salmon, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
In a small bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, tahini, honey, lime zest and juice, soy, and grated ginger until smooth. Set aside.
Prepare the broccoli. Cut the broccoli crown off from the stalk, and chop into small florets. Remove the tough skin of the broccoli stalk with either a vegetable peeler or a knife to reveal the much more pleasant inside of the stalk. Chop the stalk. Place the chopped broccoli on a rimmed baking sheet, toss with olive oil, garlic, salt, and spread out evenly for baking.
For POACHING the salmon: Roast the broccoli for 15 minutes (in the 450 degrees F oven), while you poach the salmon on the stovetop. In a saucepan, bring about 1 cup water to a gentle simmer. Add the peppercorns and mirin to the water. Gently slide in the salmon, skin side down. Cover and cook until the salmon is just barely cooked in the middle, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillet. (Note: In my most recent attempt at poaching the salmon, the filet was very thin and likely nearing the end of its freshness since it was on sale. I found that even 5 minutes had the filets close to overcooked, so keep a close watch and err on the side of undercooking if using this method.) Remove the salmon to a plate, loosely cover with foil and set aside.
For SLOW BAKING the salmon: Prepare the salmon by seasoning it generously on both sides with salt and pepper, and adding it to the pan on which you are roasting the broccoli if there’s room. Use two pans if your broccoli pan is already crowded. Bake the pan(s) of salmon and broccoli for 25 minutes or until the thickest part of the filet is nearly opaque. If you like crispy edges, you can pass the broccoli under the broiler for another few minutes after you’ve removed the salmon from the oven.
For BOTH methods: Remove the salmon to a plate and cover with foil.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the soba noodles according to package instructions for al dente. Drain the noodles, and toss immediately in a large bowl with the dressing, half the green onions, and half the cilantro. Divide the noodles among four bowls, top with a portion of the salmon and a serving of broccoli. Sprinkle on the remaining green onions, cilantro, and sesame seeds on top. Dig in!