Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

The February 2011 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by Lisa of Blueberry Girl. She challenged Daring Cooks to make Hiyashi Soba and Tempura. She has various sources for her challenge including japanesefood.about.com, pinkbites.com, and itsybitsyfoodies.com

Note from the challenge host: The most important thing is not to overcook your noodles, or you will end up with a gelatinous mass. Have a bowl of cold water and ice standing by, and once you have drained and rinsed your soba place it in the water. The great thing is once that’s done you can leave it in the fridge for up to a couple of hours and it will still be nice and fresh. Take your time and complete each step all of these items work well prepared beforehand, so don’t rush.

I made this soba dish twice this month, and both times forgot to go unpack the camera from vacation and take pictures! Rest assured that it was passably lovely and incredibly tasty. Usually by the time I remembered that I should take a photo, my bowl of soba was practically gone. Sad face.

Soba is a Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour, as opposed to European-style pasta which is traditionally made with durum wheat flour, semolina, or egg. The brand of soba noodle I bought is conveniently packaged in paper-wrapped bundles, three bundles (or incredibly generous servings) to a bag. This style of soba, called hiyashi soba, is a cold soba noodle salad with toppings of the diner’s choice sprinkled in, and a thin sauce or broth to accompany it. The recipe from Lisa serves 4, but this can be easily adjusted to serve 1 or 2 or 20.

Hiyashi Soba
serves 4

Heat 2 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the noodles a small bundle at a time, stirring gently to separate. When the water returns to a full boil, add 1 cup of cold water. Repeat this twice. When the water returns to a full boil, check the noodles for doneness. You want to cook them until they are firm-tender. Do not overcook them.

Drain the noodles in a colander and rinse well under cold running water until the noodles are cool. This not only stop the cooking process, but it also removes starch from the noodles. This is an essential part of soba noodle making. Once the noodles are cool, drain them and cover them with a damp kitchen towel and set them aside, allowing them to cool completely.

Lisa also gave us two recipes for dipping sauces, a traditional one called mentsuyu and made with dashi, soy sauce, and mirin, and a spicy one. After surveying the ingredients in each, I chose the spicy dipping sauce, and I’m glad I did.

Spicy Dipping Sauce

3/4 c. green onions or scallions, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. English mustard powder*
1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil or vegetable oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste**

*I found powdered Colman’s in the spice section of my nearest large grocery store.
**Roughly 1/3 tsp. of each.

Shake all the ingredients together in a covered container. Once the salt has dissolved, add and shake in 2 tablespoons of water. Season again if needed.

Common hiyashi soba toppings that Lisa suggests are:

thin omelet strips
boiled chicken
boiled bean sprouts
toasted nori (dried seaweed)
green onions
grated daikon radish
pickled ginger

The first time we made this, I used just what I had on hand, which was some shaved deli ham and julienned cucumbers and some more chopped green onions. We decided that tofu would be a good topping as well, and also filling, which might let us reduce the amount of pasta per serving, since one serving-sized bundle of soba made for a huge serving! So the second time we made this, I prepared and cooked half of a brick of extra-firm tofu and split one bundle of soba in to two servings (one bundle makes about one cup and three-quarters, cooked). I also bought some bean sprouts, which I love, but then I forgot to add them to my dishes! (It’s been a very forgetful sort of month for me.) It’s nice to be able to use pretty much whatever you’ve got, as long as it’s germane to the flavors of the dish (I nixed the idea of using peppers) — fresh, not overwhelming, and well-balanced. I loved the way the shaved ham’s salty savoriness played off of the dipping sauce’s spicy saltiness, and the cucumbers are clean and crunchy, playing up texture while toning down the sauce a bit. The tofu experiment turned out well, but I need to perfect my skills for cooking with it!

Hiyashi soba definitely earns repeat appearances at the Eatery!


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Pasta alla Norma

Eggplant. A notoriously fickle vegetable (fruit?). I’ve always been wary of it because instructions for recipes always talk about soaking the eggplant in saltwater to remove the bitterness. What if I mess that up? Who wants bitter eggplant? And yet, so many recipes that catch my eye include eggplant in some form or another. It’s something I’ve just got to get over.

Pasta alla Norma
serves 4 (or more)

2 medium eggplants, about 8 oz each, diced small
3 Tbsp olive oil
10 oz dried macaroni or fusili pasta
2/3 c. grated Pecorino cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
shredded fresh basil leaves, to garnish

For the tomato sauce:
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 can (14 oz) chopped tomatoes or 1 jar (14 oz) passata

Soak the diced eggplant in a bowl of cold salted water for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Make the sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, and cook gently for about 3 minutes, with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir the sauce and add a few spoonfuls of water occasionally, to prevent it from becoming too thick. Remove from the heat.

Drain the eggplants and pat dry. Spread the pieces out in a roasting pan, add the oil, and toss to coat. Bake for 20-25 minutes, turning the eggplants every 4-5 minutes with a spatula so they brown evenly.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente (about 10 to 12 minutes). Reheat the tomato sauce. Drain the pasta thoroughly and add it to the tomato sauce, with half the roasted eggplant and half the Pecorino. Toss to mix, and taste for seasoning.

Spoon the pasta and sauce mixture in to a warmed large serving dish and top with the remaining roasted eggplant. Scatter the shredded fresh basil leaves on top, followed by the remaining Pecorino. Service immediately, with generous chunks of crusty bread.

I know this recipe says 4 servings, but I think you could feed 6 or even 8 people, if you add a nice big salad to fill out the meal, or if you serve this as a side to a main course.

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