Soba Noodles with Roasted Eggplant

1 eggplant (1 pound)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 pound soba (japanese buckwheat) noodles
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons chinese chile paste
3 cups grated carrots (about 5 carrots)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup diced cucumber

Preheat broiler.

Cut eggplant in half lengthwise. Place halves cut-side down on a baking sheet. Broil about 4 inches from the heat until skin is blackened and flesh is very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, stir sesame seeds over medium-low heat until toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small dish to cool.

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook noodles until al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool. Press to remove excess water, transfer to a large bowl and toss with 1 teaspoon of the oil to keep noodles from sticking.

With a chef's knife, mash garlic and salt into a paste. Transfer to a small bowl and add vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, brown sugar, chile paste and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Whisk until blended and set aside.

Peel skin from cooled eggplant and discard. Chop eggplant flesh to a coarse puree. Add it to noodles, along with carrots, cilantro and reserved sesame seeds. Add reserved dressing and toss until well combined. Salad can be made ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator up to one day. Bring to room temperature before serving. Garnish with diced cucumber and serve.

Makes 8 cups. About 4 servings.



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