I like micro things. Micro greens, microwaves, microbrews, micro fleece…all wonderful in their own right. Microclimates, though? That’s another story. Because San Francisco is so friggin’ hilly, it’s a different season around every corner. For me, this means bundling up in my stuffed animal pelt in the morning and stripping down to spaghetti straps by the time I get to work. It’s a strange way to live, I tell ya!
As micro as the climates are here, the neighborhoods are even more so. Lower Haight and “The Haight,” for example, are opposite worlds, where an invisible line is drawn between brunch territory and stoner stomping grounds. The other day, I found myself at Haight & Ashbury, where I invented the game ‘Homeless or Millennial.’ The street was sprinkled gingerly with head shops intermingled with dive bars, while the potent scents of marijuana and Nag Champa were relentless.
While most might consider the generous supply of dispensaries to be the defining characteristic of The Haight, the real crown jewel of this micro-hood is the Whole Foods store. For one, it’s filled with seriously good eats, and for two, the outdoor seating area is peopled generously with ‘Homeless or Millennial’ test subjects.
I went into Whole Foods in pursuit of some veggies for this here recipe, which is nearly identical to one that Deb Perelman recently posted on her food blog, Smitten Kitchen. The produce department was colorful and abundant with the likes of heirloom everything and non-local nothing. Reaching in for the radishes, I noticed that they were actually dirty, and as a result, so was my hand. After being vaguely frustrated about the mud on my paw (what am I, a Bichon Frise?), I realized that radishes come from the ground and hence should be dirty. And, for that matter, ALL of this super pricey stuff came from somewhere near or in dirt! Is it really that remarkable that some of the leftover brown stuff stays stuck?
Thing is, I’ve got a relatively serious compulsion for shopping at Trader Joe’s. As much as I love not spending “Whole Paycheck” on dinner, I don’t love that all my produce comes pre-bagged, pre-washed, and pre-prepped. Call me crazy (or just a genuine San Franciscan) but I want to have a relationship with my produce – a relationship not unlike that between a helicopter parent and her offspring. I appreciate the effort Joe, I really do, but I like my radishes dirty and their leaves attached. And damn it if I don’t have the right to read their text messages, too!
I like Smitten Kitchen’s recipe for a few reasons. 1. It’s quick. 2. There’s no rush. Since it’s served cold, there’s no running around the kitchen like a Mexican Jumping Bean. 3. It’s easy. Really, very little “cooking” is asked of you. 4. It’s good. I’m talking refreshing, crunchy, healthy goodness that screams summer, especially if you don’t live in one of the polar vortex microclimates like some of us. If you do, though, put on a sweater and make this anyway. You won’t regret it, at least not nearly as much as you’d regret most other purchases in The Haight.
4 ounces buckwheat soba noodles
1 tablespoon white miso
1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
½ teaspoon granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
Juice of ½ a lime
¼ of a large cucumber
1. Follow cooking instructions on soba noodle package. I boiled mine for about 8 minutes. Once done, pour the noodles into a colander and rinse under cold water to prevent sticking.
2. While noodles are cooking, make the sauce. Whisk together miso, ginger, sugar, Cayenne, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and lime juice.
3. Slice radishes and cucumber tissue-paper thin. Slice avocado lengthwise. Chop scallion.
4. Divide noodles between two bowls. Pour half the dressing into each bowl and gently toss until the noodles are coated. Arrange veggies in the bowl and enjoy!