Soba Salad with Roasted Eggplant Dressing

1 eggplant, medium, about 1 pound
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 pound soba noodles
1 1/3 tablespoons canola oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons light soy sauce
2 tablespoons fresh gingerroot, minced
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons chili paste, preferably chinese
3 cups carrot, grated
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 cup cucumber, diced

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

2. 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.

3. 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 one-fourth of the oil to keep them from sticking.

4. 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 oil. Whisk until blended and set aside.

5. Peel the skin from the cooled eggplant and discard. Chop the eggplant flesh to a coarse puree. Add it to the noodles, along with carrots, cilantro and the reserved sesame seeds. Add the reserved dressing and toss until well-combined. (The salad can be made ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving.) Garnish the salad with diced cucumber and serve.

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