Just a mild spring zephyr

Now, have you had your fill of kale and avocados? Would you like something that isn't healthy and green and vegetarian? Do you crave sugary sweetness? Cakes of lemony lightness, tarts of chocolatey goodness? Are you scrambling to find ideas for Easter or Passover or any other holiday that springs forth this time of year?

I'm so sorry. I have nothing for you.

All I have is kale and avocados. Yesterday I brought home six bursting, black-nubbed avocados for a mere $1.39. Oh, how I was pleased. Then today, a blustery, billowy sort of day, I stopped to talk with my neighbours, you know the ones with the terrific garden? Well, the wind delivered a beating to their once-towering vegetables - most laid flat and defeated - so they sent me home with a five-foot-long stalk of Tuscan kale - roots, shoots, flowers and all.

Now, I am positively giddy about all the recipes, both old and new, to use with my cavolo nero and I've got some ideas for the avocados (besides the ice cream churning as I type) but there's a problem. I can't stop making these noodles:

I first had them a couple days ago when I discovered an open package of soba noodles. Since I didn't have any radishes or bok choy or even lime juice on hand - just half an avocado and some sad, woody carrots - I decided to splice this recipe with another one I'd been eying. I roasted the carrots until they were caramelized and mostly tender (they were really old and tough), sliced them up with the avocado and tossed them with sweet potato soba noodles and a bright, orange-y  peanut sauce. It was good.

I wasn't entirely surprised when I found myself making the same thing yesterday, only with a few more tweaks here and there. No carrots, just avocado. Grapefruit instead of orange juice, sesame instead of olive oil and, just for kicks, mirin instead of water. I ransacked the cupboards for nori to no avail (I did find some kombu but, trust me, not a good substitute). Instead I sprinkled some salted sesame seeds on top - also delicious on popcorn.

How was it? The firm, earthy noodles were slick with the fantastic peanut sauce; the smooth, rich avocado  melted away and the crunchy sesame seeds provided excellent contrast. I slurped it all up. The rest of my avocados don't stand a chance.

Soba Noodles with a Citrus-y Peanut Sauce and Avocado
Adapted from Orangette

For the sauce:
1/2 cup well-stirred natural peanut butter (I use Adams 100% Natural Crunchy because I love it)
1 1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1 tbsp brown rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp sriracha, or more to taste
1/2 tsp sambal oelek, or more to taste
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp mirin
1/4 tsp pressed garlic (about 1 small clove)

For the noodles:
10 ounces soba noodles
2 large, ripe avocados
A couple big handfuls of fresh cilantro leaves
Salted sesame seeds, to taste

Make the sauce by combining all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisking well. Suspend disbelief and keep whisking until you have a smooth, light brown sauce. Taste and adjust as you please. Set aside.

Halve the avocados, remove their pits and gently ease them from their skins. Cut them into medium-large pieces, as you please. Set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil then add the soba noodles. Cook them at a gentle simmer until they're al dente, about 6 or 7 minutes. Drain the noodles in a colander in the sink and immediately rinse them with cold water. Use your hands to pick up and separate the noodles between your fingers. This will prevent the noodles from clumping together.

Shake any excess water from the noodles then add them to the bowl of sauce. Using two forks, gently toss the noodles until they are evenly coated. Add the avocado and cilantro and gently toss again. Sprinkle with salted sesame seeds, to taste, and serve.

Makes enough for 4, for lunch.

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