Saturday, February 21, 2015

just noodling

Say you’ve got some scallions and garlic, a bright lime, some roasted sesame oil, maybe some sesame seeds, and perhaps some cilantro. What do you do? Add them to some soba noodles for an exuberant version of Sesame Noodles!
Could this be the first time I’d noticed the buckwheat goodness of soba? Could it be that I’d never had them before? Because I was very impressed. They were both silken and strong, as well as flavorful.
Soba is the gray/brown Japanese noodle made of buckwheat and water and it is literally the word used for buckwheat. The traditional recipe for cooking these noodles is to bring a big pot of water to a boil, plunge the noodles into it, and when it comes to a boil again to keep adding cold water each time to keep them at a simmer.
I brought a pan (I use a rather deep sauté pan for this) of water (but not an exorbitant amount) to a boil, plunged the noodles into it and cooked them over a medium heat for 6 minutes, then plunged them into a pan of cold water to cool them off but not make them too chilly. When I was ready, I drained them and tossed them with the ingredients above, adding maybe some salt and perhaps a small brunoise (tiny squares) of jalapeno. I took them as an appetizer to one of our Fridays@Five get-togethers and we all looked like birds, dangling those beautiful strands down our gullets.
The reason I was bothering with those noodles at all was because of a recipe I’d seen in Seven Days by one of their new food writers, Hannah Palmer Egan, for a Daikon Miso Noodle Bowl. I was particularly interested in the simple miso broth she made with 4 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of red miso paste, a scant handful of bonito flakes, and ½ of a medium daikon radish that had been peeled and thinly sliced. The water is brought to a boil, the miso paste whisked in, then the bonito flakes and daikon are added, the pot is covered and it’s boiled over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes. She went on in some detail and I did follow that recipe that can be found in their January 6 issue and it was very good but I’ll leave that up to you.
For those times when you just want a broth to add your own things to, this is a good basic one and you don’t have to boil up a chicken. I add some sesame oil, some garlic, and maybe an egg and it fulfills my afternoon hunger. Or supper. Or even breakfast.
An egg? My Facebook friend, CrescentDragonwagon, detailed a quick soup that she was having for breakfast when I questioned her about it. She had said, “…miso soup, with grated fresh ginger, minced garlic, scallions, tofu, a poached egg, a little cooked brown rice… this is what called my name.”
Ah, I said, and do you boil the water and then add miso and bonito flakes. She reminded me that she was vegetarian and so skipped the bonito flakes, “And yes, I bring water to the boil, today adding a few chunks of fresh ginger, then poaching the egg in it, then pouring a little water onto the miso paste to dilute it, then pouring the whole shebang into the diluted miso.” Sometimes she would add grated ginger and sliced shiitake mushrooms. But, one should remember that, “The egg yolk of course should still be on the runny side when it gets poured into the bowl, because the minute you pierce it with the spoon it flows into the hot broth and cooks further and the whole thing enriches quite wonderfully.” WOW. Egg yolk porn.
When I made my first miso broth the other day I dug out a white plastic container of Mitoku Organic Yamaki Barley Miso that I’d bought at Sunshine Natural Foods in the last century sometime and had never tried. It was a shiny mahogany color of clay-like consistency, and I thought – hey, now or never. Absolutely delicious. Now I am on a hunt for it. If any of you know of it or where it can be found, please let me know. Otherwise, a fascinating array of misos can be bought at the Co-op. 
So those are some ideas for soba noodles and miso broth, and now I want to talk about udon noodles and this is why: Saturday, which was Valentine’s Day you will remember, I stopped after the Farmers’ Market at Green Mountain Fresh on State Street to get some fish for Leo’s supper: He brings me flowers and I make him a nice dinner (which I do every other day, too, but I make a bigger fuss about it on Valentine’s Day). They had fresh chopped clams and I thought that we had not had clam spaghetti in a long time and we do both love it. And I thought that it would be especially good with soba noodles and I was sure that I had another package at home. Yum. I was hungry already!
Long story short, once home I found I did not have soba noodles, I had udon noodles and I was certainly not going back into town, so udon noodles it would have to be. And though I did not know what to expect, these turned out to be as silky and strong as the soba noodles, without, however, the nice buckwheat taste.
I cooked them up in the same way I did the soba and then I dumped them into a pot of cold water just as I had the soba, and they warmed the cold water to a comfortable level while I made the clam sauce, which was simply some white wine poured into the bottom of a sauce pan, some chopped garlic added to that, cooked until just a scrim remained then adding a stick of butter to melt over a very low heat and when it was melted I poured in the lovely chopped fresh clams and their juices and warmed the whole thing. In the meantime I chopped a lot of flat-leafed parsley and stirred that in. In shallow soup bowls I swirled the cooled udon noodles, spooned the hot clam sauce over and sprinkled that with grated parmesan cheese. 

I’d lit candles to illuminate Leo’s beautiful bouquet and we dug in, twirling our forks against a soupspoon and slurping those silken noodles and chunks of clams into our mouths. A crisp massaged kale salad bright with lemon proved the perfect foil.

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