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Soba Noodles with Bell Pepper and Mango

Here is an improvisational dish for those who like the melding of sweet and savory. Earthy buckwheat noodles and salty peanuts meet the bright, sweet notes of mango, bell pepper, lemon zest, basil and mint. A savory dressing with a hint of honey pulls the diverse flavors together.

Ingredients:

For the dressing:

  • 3/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup peanut oil
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 1 Tbs. prepared hot Chinese mustard

For the salad:

  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 1 head napa cabbage, about 2 lb., cored and shredded
  • 6 green onions, including 2 inches of green tops, thinly sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 jalapeño chili, seeded and minced
  • 1 lb. fresh or 3/4 lb. dried soba noodles
  • 1 firm yet ripe mango
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh Thai or sweet basil leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped

Directions:

In a large pot over high heat, bring 4 quarts water to a rapid boil.

While the water is heating, make the dressing: In a small saucepan over medium heat, stir together the vinegar, peanut oil, honey and mustard and bring to a boil. Adjust the heat so the mixture simmers and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.

To make the salad, have ready a bowl of ice water. Add the salt and cabbage to the boiling water and cook for 10 seconds. Using a wire skimmer, transfer the cabbage immediately to the ice water to halt the cooking; reserve the cooking water in the pot. Drain the cabbage thoroughly.

In a large serving bowl, combine the cabbage, green onions and chili. Pour the hot dressing over the top and stir to mix and wilt the cabbage. Let stand while the noodles are cooking.

Return the water to a boil and add the noodles, stir well and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes for fresh noodles or 5 to 7 minutes for dried noodles.

Meanwhile, stand the mango on its blossom end on a cutting board. Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice downward to cut away one side of the flesh from the large, flat pit, pressing the flat side of the knife as close to the pit as possible. Repeat on the other side. Alternatively, remove the pit with a mango pitter. Using the tip of the knife, cut the flesh side of each half lengthwise into 3 or 4 sections, up to but without piercing the skin. Turn the skin inside out and cut out the sections. Cut each section lengthwise into thin slices.

Drain the noodles, rinse under cold running water and drain again. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, bell pepper, basil and mint to the cabbage mixture and toss to mix well. Add the noodles and toss again to mix well. Top with the mango slices and peanuts and serve at room temperature. Serves 4.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The Pasta Book, by Julia della Croce (Weldon Owen, 2010).