“I always have had this intense craving for soba,” says recipe developer Andy Baraghani. Soba really is that noodle — quick-cooking, good at any temperature, and thanks to its use of buckwheat, nutty in flavor, distinct in texture, and naturally gluten-free. Whether he serves it hot with dashi or cold and sauced, Baraghani prefers his soba pared down in terms of accompaniments. In his debut cookbook The Cook You Want to Be — which comes out this week — soba appears with a nut butter-based sauce that’s spiked with soy sauce, black vinegar, lemon juice, sesame oil, and ginger. Cucumbers (or “any crunchy veggie you want,” Baraghani says) and “a ton of herbs” make for a clearly Andy Baraghani finish.
When Baraghani was sharpening his skills as a recipe developer at Bon Appétit, his dishes were recognizable for their bursts of flavor, sense of refinement, and California-honed reliance on fresh produce, which often included showers of herbs. In his new book, “the vegetable chapter and the salad chapter are the biggest chapters,” says Baraghani. “It comes as no surprise for myself and anybody who knows me or who knows my cooking.” Though he’s still changing as a cook, he adds, “I have a strong sense of what flavors I like and what I’m drawn to.” The cold soba, for example, highlights his tendency to layer acids, using more than one kind to add different nuances of flavor.
If The Cook You Want to Be traces the big phases of Baraghani’s life thus far — his upbringing as a first-generation Iranian American in California, his days working in restaurants like Chez Panisse, his time at Bon Appétit, and his recent decision to go out on his own — then cold soba is a dish for more specific moments: the hottest days of the year. “The thing I can have at least once a week is cold soba,” he says. And with this cold soba recipe in your back pocket, you’ll be cool as a cucumber when those sticky nights roll around.
Cold Soba With Lemony Peanut and Crunchy Veg Recipe
1⁄3 cup peanut butter, cashew butter, or tahini
3 tablespoons soy sauce2 tablespoons black vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or as needed
2 teaspoons peeled, finely grated ginger
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
14 ounces dried soba noodles
Thinly sliced scallions for serving
Sliced cucumber for serving
Cilantro sprigs, with as much stem as possible, for serving
Sliced fresh chiles for serving
Crushed toasted peanuts or cashews and/or sesame seeds for serving
Step 1: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While you’re waiting, in a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, vinegar, lemon zest, lemon juice, ginger, sugar, sesame oil, and salt to taste and whisk until a smooth sauce forms.
Step 2: When your water boils, drop the noodles into the pot, give them a stir, and cook until barely tender, about 5 minutes (refer to the package directions just to be sure). Drain and rinse under cold water to stop them from cooking. Drain again. Divide the noodles among four bowls and spoon the sauce on top. Scatter each serving with scallions, cucumber, cilantro, chile, and crushed nuts and serve.
Reprinted with permission from The Cook You Want to Be by Andy Baraghani, copyright © 2022. Published by Lorena Jones Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Photography copyright: Graydon Herriott © 2022.