About three years ago a friend of mine needed a place to stay in a pinch. To thank me for letting her stay at my place, she cooked for me almost every night, and my two favorite things K. made were Japanese noodle salad and udon soup. There's no secret to udon. I just buy the package and follow the instructions on the back (well, I guess K. told me which mushrooms to buy, too--the trick is lots of mushrooms in the udon to make my lady pleased). But the noodle salad I've changed and tweaked and used over and over again since that summer. It's my "back-up" meal when there's nothing else to eat, or when it's too hot to really cook. It's also one of A.'s favorite meals! The best part is that with noodles and dressing, you can pretty much add or subtract whatever else you want on this salad. It's a good way to use your almost-ready-for-the-compost-heap veggies in your fridge. Make it vegan by leaving out the eggs. Make it omnivorous by adding some diced ham or grilled shrimps. Even though this is the easiest thing I make (except my fantabulous grilled cheese sandwiches), people seem to really like it. If you've ever been to my house for dinner and eaten this, I sure hope you weren't faking it about how awesome it was.
Japanese Noodle Salad for 2
8 ounces of "Asian" wheat noodles (or three little bundles--you can sub regular spaghetti, too)
Summer Squash, sliced
Sliced femented tofu packets--inari-age (yeah, this is kind of a specialty ingredient, but it's not strictly necessary. You can get is at a Japanese grocery, but I've never found it at a Chinese or Thai grocery)
Red Pepper, thinly sliced
Toasted Sesame Seeds
Boil noodles until they are done, but not mushy, then rinse thoroughly in cold water until they are chilled all the way through. Sort evenly into two bowls.
Arrange your julienned carrots and capsicum prettily on the top.
Beat the egg with a little water, and pour into a hot frying pan to make a flat, very thin omelet (I suck at this--most of my noodle salads end up with scrambled eggs on them instead of beautiful slices of omelet). Flip it nicely to cook on both sides, and then turn it out onto a cutting board. Cut into 8 or 12 slices and place 1/2 on each salad, next to your other veggies.
Use the same hot and ready skillet to briefly sizzle your bean sprouts (just 30 to 45 seconds), and to sautee the squash until it's nice and tender. Let the squash cool a bit and then arrange it on the salad. The bean sprouts go right in the middle of the salad, with all the other items around the outside.
The inari-age should be sliced into 1/2-inch slices, and also arranged around the outside. Sprinkle sesame seeds over it all.
Here's a start to a dressing recipe--adjust to your taste:
7 T. Olive Oil
1 T. Sesame Oil
4 T. Soy Sauce
4 T. Rice Vinegar
1 or 2 Cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 Inch Ginger Root, minced
Mix it up with a fork. Pour over salad, reserving some in case someone wants a little extra. Never put the chopsticks into the salad for your guests/dinner servees. It's back luck, I've been told.