Cold Soba Noodle Salad with Ginger-Sesame Dressing

There are certain cookbooks I just can't live without; they're the cookbooks that contain the recipes I make over and over and over again...never tiring of the flavors or the dishes, no matter how many times I make them. One such cookbook is Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks. I've credited that book dozens of times since I started this blog. And then I realized that I've never made any of the dishes from her first cookbook, Super Natural Cooking. I didn't own it, so I decided to buy it-- despite my little moratorium on no new cookbook purchases. 
Now unlike some of my cookbooks, which call for obscure ingredients, contain difficult cooking techniques and have prep times that just don't gel with my current lifestyle, this book is right up my alley. It has inspired dishes that are super flavorful, easy to make, and don't require advanced culinary degrees for successful execution.
I decided to start with the 'Otsu' recipe because my friend Charlotta highly recommended it. I loved it- the otsu is a wonderful cold soba (soba is buckwheat in Japanese) noodle salad, with cucumbers, pan fried tofu and scallions. The salad is coated in an awesome ginger-sesame dressing-- one that is salty, sweet, spicy, tangy (all at the same time) and just plain delicious. I thought I'd pass on this dish to you...

The original inspiration for the dish comes from a little restaurant in San Francisco called Pomelo. And Heidi's adaptation is terrific. You can easily eat the 4-6 portions by one sitting. I promise, I won't tell.
As they say in Japan, どうぞめしあがれ (douzo meshiagare). Enjoy your meal! 

Ginger-Sesame Otsu (Adapted slightly from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking)
Ginger-Sesame Dressing:
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1-inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 tablespoon honey
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
3/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1 1/4 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup unseasoned brown rice vinegar
1/3 cup tamari soy sauce (the original recipe calls for shoyu sauce)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
(Note: I didn't have any sesame oil on hand, so I just used 3 tablespoons of olive oil. It worked for me. I've seen other modifications to this recipe that use canola oil.)
For the Rest:
12 ounces dried soba noodles
12 ounces extra-firm nigari tofu (I used organic extra-firm tofu.  Nigari is even firmer than standard extra-firm, but my regular tofu held up well when it was pan fried and added to the noodles.) 
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (I omitted the cilantro because I don't care for the taste of cilantro in this kind of dish. Adjust according to your preference.) 
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds for garnish (I toasted the seeds in a fry pan for a few minutes.  Be careful! Seeds can burn easily, so keep an eye on 'em.) 
To make the dressing, combine the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, and salt in a food processor (or use a hand blender) and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and shoyu (tamari) and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.
Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender (I cooked them for about 6 minutes) then drain and rinse under cold running water. 
While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut into rectangles roughly the size of your thumb (1/2 inch thick and 1 inch long). Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick (or well seasoned) skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, the 1/4 cup cilantro (optional), green onions, cucumber and about 2/3 cup of the dressing and toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Add more dressing until the dish is to your liking. Serve on a platter, garnished with the cilantro sprigs and toasted sesame seeds.