Hot days call for this adaptable sesame, peanut, soba and kale salad

As the weather warms up, cool down with a flavorful meal that doesn't require time in the oven

Published June 11, 2022 4:30PM (EDT)

Noodle Salad (Getty Images/Westend61)
Noodle Salad (Getty Images/Westend61)

As temperatures everywhere begin to climb steadily, I find myself veering away from dishes that require extensive prep work, energy, and worst of all a hot kitchen.

In my mind, everything in life this time of year should be as crisp and refreshing as a summer roll. This salad is inspired by one of my favorite spots in Brooklyn, LuAnne's Wild Ginger. It has a little bit of everything in terms of texture, flavor, and best of all, it'll keep you full without feeling too heavy. You've got the chewy soba noodles, the heartiness of the peanut dressing,  the crunch of the kale, and the cool smooth silken tofu. It's also a great dish to meal-prep with, because it's simple to prepare and none of the ingredients are too precious to last in the fridge.

Related: Summer meal prep: How to heat up your kitchen just once to eat all week

As a bonus, it's adaptable to your personal tastes. View this as a how-to guide, rather than a strict recipe. 

To start out, you'll want to take one bunch of kale, preferably curly, and prepare it for a relaxing massage. Kale has many reputations, and being one of the tougher cruciferous greens is one of them. By massaging the kale, you'll reach the perfect medium between crunch and sharpness. It's pretty simple too — after rinsing and drying, you'll run your hands along the stalk to rip the leaves off. Then, stack the stalks on top of each other, and chop them into bite sized pieces. 

Next, you'll take your kale and add it into a large mixing bowl with a tablespoon of sesame oil and a tablespoon of soy sauce. Massage your kale for about 3 to 5 minutes, or until the kale begins to feel a bit softer. This will also infuse the kale with the sesame and soy sauce flavor.

You'll just let that sit. Next, prepare your soba noodles by following the instructions on the package, and rinsing them with cold water once you're done. Set them aside in another bowl next to the kale.

Now you'll need to prepare your dressing. I make this in large batches and keep it on hand for just about anything; dumplings, stir fry and now this salad. 

Take about a half cup of your preferred peanut butter and add to a small mixing container. Then add about two tablespoons of sesame oil, one tablespoon of soy sauce, a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, half a tablespoon of lemon juice, half a tablespoon of Sriracha hot sauce, and a drizzle of maple syrup, to your taste. As you combine the ingredients, you may find that the mixture is not as liquid as you'd like it to be, so add hot water sparingly until it is your desired consistency. Modify your proportions to make the sauce as sweet, spicy, or tart as you'd like.

Once your dressing is mixed, add to your noodles and toss until they are generously coated. Set aside.

Finally, you'll take the smooth, cool star of the show; firm silken tofu! It's a different texture than the tofu you might be used to and is often used in desserts. Take the tofu out of the package and slice into small, bite sized pieces. Now, it's time for construction.

Grab your preferred Big Ass Salad Bowl™ and add in your coated soba noodles first. Then, layer your massaged Kale on top, and gently lay your cubed tofu as the topper. 

The dish at Luanne's usually tops it off with an amazing spicy kimchi, so if you have a ferment of choice on hand, I heavily recommend adding that as an acidic touch. The beauty of this dish is how easily you can customize it. I could easily see some simple additions like black beans, or crispy cubed potatoes, or some sauteed mushrooms for extra umami. If you don't feel like going the extra mile, a drizzle of chili crisp and some leftover dressing will do. And if you find yourself in New York City, make sure to check out LuAnne's and try the real deal!

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By Manuela Lopez Restrepo

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