A bright cold soba salad recipe with plenty of crunch from purslane, daikon radishes, bean sprouts, and fresh garden cucumbers. This salad wants to be front and center on your end-of-summer dinner table.
Confessional. These photos are some of my favorites of the summer. I threw the salad together and took them on the floor in my kitchen while frantically trying to pack last-minute things for the Boundary Waters, already late to pick up my eldest son from camp and to meet the rest of my family three hours from home.
Immediately after taking them, I dumped the plated servings back into the bowl (also pictured), threw a cover on it, wrapped an ice-pack-lined towel around it, and stuffed it in the back seat of my non-air-conditioned car. It bounced along in traffic with Kjell and me until we reached the shores of Lake Superior, waves crashing against the rocky beach, cool air coming off the water. I plopped the bowl down on a lakeside picnic table covered in seagull mute as Ole walked to a restaurant to pick up spring rolls. We ate off paper plates using our fingers because I forgot utensils. There were also stainless steel water bottles refilled from the drinking fountain in the Fitger’s building.
Seagulls continued creeping ever closer to our meal, even as my kids squawked and chased them off in between bites. I posted my earlier photo to Instagram while huddled there on the picnic table wishing I’d worn pants instead of shorts for the North Shore drive, the wind whipping my hair across my face.
My hair, which I’d cut myself three-plus hours earlier in a fit of lunacy. My family already departed, I sat staring at my waist-length locks in the bathroom mirror and deciding that, yes, I really did need to cut nine inches off immediately. Last year even, but right now would do. This was the first time in two years scissors and my hair had been friendly. I’m nothing if not low maintenance – or perhaps merely economical.
Why am I telling you all of this? Lately I’ve been having a hard time distancing myself from the things going on around me. I continuously feel inadequate. I think this is normal, especially when we are constantly bombarded by images of others seemingly doing more and doing it better, with more grace, more style, more everything. I don’t want to feed that.
Then there are these images born out of chaos. I literally held my breath to try to quell the anxiety that was rising in my throat and to calm the shaking of my hands as I took these. I remember tears welling in my eyes, cursing my stupidity as I tried to check this task off my list. I have yet to get tired of looking at them, the light reflecting through the glass the way it does at 3 p.m. in the afternoon in August when I should be somewhere else. I recognize the grace that was captured, the bits shining through even as we ate this hours later with our fingers, wiping them in the grass when we’d finished. That is what real life looks like.
I’m telling you as a reminder that there is beauty in the chaos of life and that a snapshot does not tell the whole story.
I eagerly picked up this bundle of purslane from one of my favorite stands at the farmer’s market not having a single idea what I would make with it, but anticipating it all the same. It is a succulent with a hint of a sour note, and you can eat leaves, stem, and flowers. All the same, I generally pick out the larger pieces of stem. If you can’t find it or want an alternative, micro greens or baby spinach will work well in this salad. The greens are accompanied by nutty soba noodles, fresh garden cucumber and bean sprouts, and the extra crunch of daikon and green onion.
If you like your food on the spicy side, while this has just a bit of kick from the pepper and wasabi, it is tempered with the honey and soy sauce. A spoonful of sambal oelek served alongside this is a worthwhile addition to bring the spice level back up. If you are afraid of all things spicy, you can pretend I didn’t say that.
Purslane and Soba Noodle Salad
- 8 ounces soba noodles
- 2 cups purslane, stems removed
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 Japanese or English cucumber, cut into thin spears
- 1 small daikon, julienned
- 4 green onions, sliced into thin strips
- 1 Thai chile or Serrano pepper, minced
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons mirin
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon hot chili oil
- 1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
- 1-2 teaspoons wasabi (fresh grated or dried)
- Cook the soba noodles according to the package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and then chill completely.
- In a large bowl, combine the cold soba, purslane, bean sprouts, cucumber spears, daikon, green onion strips, minced pepper, sesame seeds, ginger, and garlic.
- In a small container, mix together the soy sauce, mirin, lime juice, sesame oil, hot chili oil, honey, and wasabi. Toss the dressing with the salad ingredients.
- Allow to marinate at least one hour in the refrigerator before serving.