I’ve never been good at desk jobs.
My brain says yes. But my body says no. And then my brain gets confused. And then I get confused. And my mind says, “What am I supposed to do with my life?!”
We’ll see if that question ever gets answered. In the meantime, I’m juggling office life with photoshoot life, and keeping my workdays and work weekends busy. It’s been exciting on both fronts, and I am happy to say I’ve finally come across a company on the front end of that which is working to make my uncertainty at least a little easier. The very nice people at this company, at least mildly, know desk life gives me trouble.
And so they’ve granted me permission to spend one day per month cooking the office lunch. Um, can you say dream job perk?
After spending the 9 o’clock hour perusing the aisles of Whole Foods to gather the first lunch’s ingredients, I almost thought, “Could this be my dream job?” Shopping at Whole Foods, maybe. Cooking day-in-and-day-out in a hot, windowless kitchen, probably not.
The company lunch creation was super fun though, and definitely a success. On tap: a herb-laced spring garden salad with sungold tomatoes (my favorite cherry) and red onions, along with a simple homemade balsamic vinaigrette. This Sesame Soba Noodles with Cucumbers, Roasted Eggplant, and Crispy Tofu recipe. And a finale of fresh ginger juice shots to finish out the meal with some pep.
I decided to create this recipe based off of three primary factors. 1) Who doesn’t love noodles? 2) Though pasta is a pleaser, there’s no way I was showing up with a boring/non-creative recipe. 3) I’ve been entirely inspired by cucumbers lately. Don’t ask me why, but they’re the one summer veg. I’ve been consistently buying as of late.
So this was born, and it’s definitely going on the repeat list. SO MUCH FLAVOR. The sesame sauce adds that first depth, and then the cilantro and scallions make sure not one bite goes flavorless. You’ve also got the velvety, roasted eggplant adding to the creaminess of the sauce, with crunch cukes lightening the whole dish up, and crispy tofu adding in some protein. Oh, and ginger, too. Okay, I’ll stop listing off the ingredient list now. But you get the idea of how it all comes together.
If you can’t get this on your workplace’s table, get it on your dinner plate. And enjoy ideally at room temp., but really whatever temp. your set on at the moment.
- For the dressing:
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp. seasoned rice vinegar
- 3/4 Tbsp. Sriracha
- 2 tsp. finely minced fresh ginger
- 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
- 2 Tbsp. water
- For the salad:
- 12 oz. soba noodles
- 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/3-inch thick strips
- Olive oil + soy sauce, to lightly drizzle over eggplant
- 8 oz. pre-pressed, extra firm tofu, cubed
- 1/2-3/4 English cucumber, cut into 2-inch julienne (depending on how long your cucumber is)
- 1 bunch cilantro, stems removed, chopped
- 4 scallions, chopped
- Red chili pepper flakes, optional
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven 400F.
- Whisk all of the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. Then set aside and let the flavors marinate.
- Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot. When ready to drain, run under cold water, and then set aside.
- Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil, and coat the bottom with olive oil. Place eggplant strips on top in a single layer. Lightly toss with oil and drizzled soy sauce, to coat. Bake 18-20 min., or until eggplant is creamy and thoroughly tender. Return your pasta to your large pot, and place eggplant on top.
- Then place another sheet of aluminum foil on your baking sheet. Add cubed tofu, and lightly toss with olive oil and a drizzle of soy sauce. Cook, 15-20 min., stirring every a couple times through, until tofu is crisped and edges are brown. Remove from oven and add to pasta pan.
- Add cilantro, cucumbers, and 3 of the chopped scallions to the pan. Gently toss pasta ingredients, as you slowly start to pour in the dressing. Adjust salt and pepper, if needed.
- Serve, topped with the last chopped scallion, and red chili pepper flakes, if a little extra heat is desired.
For the tofu, feel free to use pre-baked and seasoned tofu, but still add a little olive oil and crisp it up in the oven after cutting into cubes. Otherwise, look for the firmest tofu you can find, preferably from a brand that pre-presses it.