My family has always steered clear of salad bars. Of course there's the whole gross-out factor of everyone being able to touch the food with grubby unwashed hands. There's that. But there's more, too. The town where my sister and I were born was the location of a giant bioterrorism attack… and it happened the summer before I was born, when Amanda was a baby. Several salad bars in town were deliberately contaminated with salmonella. Over 700 people were harmed, in an attempt to control an election. You can read about it here… and you should, the whole thing is really interesting. It's also crazy to hear my parents talk about what it was like living there at that time, how no one wore the same colors as the group responsible, the Rajneeshees, for fear of being associated with them. And how everyone was scared and on edge and basically preparing for battle.
But anyway, salad bars. My parents weren't harmed by the attack, but it did make them very anti salad bar. So, needless to say, I grew up fearing salad bars, buffets, potlucks, and most self-serve public eateries. Even though I'm still a bit wary, I've become more lax in my old age (speaking of age… Evan just turned 28! We're nearing 30, folks!). I occasionally visit the salad bar near my office for lunch. John and Mel would be appalled.
My typical salad bar salad is a weird combo of spring greens, cold sesame noodles, cold fried tofu, purple cabbage, and sesame-soy dressing. Ok, that combo doesn't sound very weird. The weird part is that I usually add a dollop of bleu cheese dressing too. Seriously, try it. This soba noodle salad here, fresh and lightly dressed, full of cabbage, carrots, green onions, noodles, and baked tofu is inspired by my go-to salad bar creation and another salad bar favorite, the spelt berry and tofu salad from PCC. And, since you make it yourself, you can avoid all salad bar threats, grubby hands or otherwise.
Spicy Sesame Soba Salad with Tofu
Adapted from this recipe
Serves 2-4 as a meal, 4-6 as a side
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 package extra firm tofu
3 ounces soba noodles
4 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 cups finely shredded purple cabbage
1 carrot, shredded
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 325°
Stir together soy sauce, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, cayenne, sesame oil, and olive oil. Cut tofu into 1-inch cubes, and add to a baking dish. Pour half of sauce over tofu and bake for 15 minutes. Gently stir and cook another 10-15 minutes. Cool.
Meanwhile, boil soba noodles until al dente, drain, and rinse with cold water.
Gently toss cold noodles, cooked, cooled tofu (with any sauce still in baking dish), cabbage, carrot, green onion, cilantro, sesame seeds, and remaining half of sauce until combined.