Mark Bittman: Sesame Noodles with Spinach and Salmon

By Freya Bellin

Normally the idea of sesame noodles conjures images of a dense, nutty sauce. Here, a lighter approach is taken, with toasted sesame seeds offering a subtle nuttiness, alongside hearty whole wheat or soba noodles. Tender, wilted spinach soaks up the garlicky soy sauce, and seared salmon is a lovely accent; you can't beat crispy salmon skin. However, it is truly just an accent. If you're looking for a little more heft, you may want some additional protein, be it fish or tofu. Either way, the dish comes together quite quickly, and tastes great at room temperature. Recipe from The Food Matters Cookbook.

Sesame Noodles with Spinach and Salmon

Makes: 4 servings

Time: 30 minutes

The flavors of oshitashi-Japanese spinach salad garnished with shaved dried bonito flakes-are at play here, only the fish is fresh salmon. I love the flavor and texture of seared salmon skin, but you can discard it if you prefer. (In either case, don't eat the scales!). Instead of the spinach, you might try shredded Napa cabbage.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 ounces salmon fillet, preferably wild
Black pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 1⁄2 pounds spinach, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon sesame oil
8 ounces buckwheat (soba) noodles or whole wheat spaghetti

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Put the vegetable oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. When it's very hot, sprinkle the salmon on both sides with salt and pepper and sear it in the pan until nicely browned on both sides, about 6 minutes total. Remove from the pan and cut or flake it into bite-size pieces.

2. Reduce the heat under the skillet to medium. Add the garlic and sesame seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic begins to soften and the sesame seeds turn golden, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, for another minute or 2. Add the soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and a splash of water and cook until the spinach is wilted, another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat.

3. Cook the noodles in the boiling water until they're tender but not mushy (start tasting after 5 minutes), then drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Turn the heat under the spinach mixture to medium and add the noodles and reserved salmon. Toss, adding enough reserved liquid to keep things moist. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Sesame Spinach and Tofu with Noodles. Instead of the salmon, cut 8 ounces firm tofu into 4 thick slices and brown about 2 minutes per side. Proceed with the recipe. Serve a slice of tofu on top of each serving of noodles.

The Food Matters CookbookThe Food Matters CookbookFrom the award-winning champion of conscious eating and author of the bestselling Food Matters comes The Food Matters Cookbook, offering the most comprehensive and straightforward ideas yet for cooking easy, delicious foods that are as good for you as they are for the planet. The Food Matters Cookbookis the essential encyclopedia and guidebook to responsible eating, with more than 500 recipes that capture Bittman's typically relaxed approach to everything in the kitchen.