If March is the cruelest month, September is the strangest. The back-to-school commercials will have you believe that fall leaves and cozy sweaters are just around the corner, while the August heat and late-summer produce lingers. Stuck in the seasonal shift, what feels right for dinner? Raw radish salads and tomato toasts aren’t calling my name anymore, but this cold udon bowl is.
Senior food editor Andy Baraghani‘s recipe comes together in just 15 minutes or so, using a smartly deployed bit of broiling to create jammy, semi-charred cherry tomatoes that play off fresh herbs and cooling chunks of cucumber. Plus spiking ponzu with grapefruit juice creates a multi-layered sauce that coats every last slippery noodle. Here’s how it comes together.
First heat your broiler so it’s good to go. Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl and juice the grapefruit and lemon over it to prevent your ponzu from getting pulpy. When you have a little over ½ cup juice, mix in a finely chopped chile, grated ginger, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and a little sugar. Give it a stir, then go ahead and throw that in the fridge while you get the cherry tomatoes going. Toss them with grated garlic, olive oil, and salt on a rimmed baking sheet and broil them until they’re soft and lightly charred. It should take about ten minutes, and you can rotate the tray halfway through to promote even charring.
Finally, cook your udon according to the package instructions. It should only take a minute or two because most frozen udon noodles are fully cooked and just need to be thawed. When they’re warmed and slightly al dente, drain and immediately rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Add your udon to the bowl with the ponzu dressing and toss to ensure the noodles are fully coated. Dole out the udon and ponzu and top with charred tomatoes, cucumbers, and cilantro, then garnish with crumbled nori and sesame seeds. To cut cukes as pretty as the ones in the recipe photo, check out this video.
Yes, the final composed bowl is beautiful, but it’s also perfect for early fall. Salty, earthy crumbled nori plays off the citrusy-sweet grapefruit ponzu, and the hearty noodles are compulsively slurpable. It’s the kind of dinner that accidentally disappears in minutes, leaving behind dreams of seconds and a pool of ponzu—and that kind of pool is open year round.