a fun savory salad for the summer
8 cups water
1 star anise
1/8 teaspoon coriander seed
1-inch peice cinnamon stick
2 lime leaves (or zest of 1/2 lime)
3 thai chili peppers (or serrano or jalapeno peppers)
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons mirin
1 watermelon wedge, about 2 1/2 pounds
1 large heirloom tomato, cored
1 teaspoon white miso
1/2 plus 1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup neutral oil, such as canola
1 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sambal chili sauce (or sriracha)
1 block firm tofu
1 pack dry soba noodles
1 pint sunflower sprouts (or watercress or baby arugula)
2 scallions, julienned
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, toasted
1/4 cup crispy fried shallots
make watermelon pickle: in a large pot, set water, star anise, coriander, cinnamon, lime leaves (or zest), chili peppers, salt, sugar, 3/4 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup mirin to boil. while pickling solution heats, cut watermelon. remove green outer skin of watermelon rind and red flesh from watermelon wedge. cut white rind into 1-inch pieces. when pickling solution is boiling, add chopped rind. boil until rind softens slightly and begins to appear translucent, 10-15 minutes more. remove rind to a container. add pickling brine until just covered and refrigerate until ready to use.
make tomato-sesame vinaigrette: combine tomato, remaining vinegar, remaining mirin, miso, 1/4 cup sesame oil and 1/4 cup neutrl oil. blend until smooth. refrigerate.
cook the soba: rinse with cold water, drain.
toss soba with watercress, scallions, 1/2 cup drained watermelon pickle and 1/2 cup tomato-sesame vinaigrette.
remove tofu from marinade and blot dry with paper towels. toss tofu with sunflower seeds. add to soba. sprinkle with crispy shallots and serve.