Thursday, September 21, 2006

Soba Seafood Pasta

While in Indiana at the State Fair, D and I made our way into the 4-H barn “after hours”. Okay, it was really about 5pm, but this was when the real deal started: Well after top-notch vegetables had been judged, local wines swirled and alfalfa blocks adorned, the local apiaries took the stage for a little bee demonstration and hints of the trade.

We seemed to be the only ones fascinated by the discussion, complete with a live demonstration behind the speaker (a man relating the talk with live bees and hive). We asked our questions then dove into samples of over one dozen honey varieties as well as honey butter, honey laced yogurts, honey sticks, honeycomb, beeswax blocks and more.

Slightly stunned when we asked for a good contrasting honey for the soon-to-be-purchased molasses-hued buckwheat honey, we were given a deep shrug: “it’s honey.” Obviously not one of their top salespersons. Buckwheat honey and an amber toned wildflower honey made it into our bags and to New York in one piece-- along with sorghum, whole wheat flour and cracklin’s still fresh on the mind.

Back in New York, worlds away from Indiana, I was avoiding tourists in Chinatown. Ducking into one of the hundreds of food stalls that line the narrow streets, I found myself confronted with noodles. Hundreds of noodles: cellophane, egg, rice, ramen and soba (or buckwheat). The honey must have been on my mind because I grabbed a pack of soba noodles before heading home.

The excitement ended there and for weeks the noodles sat in the cupboard. The honey on the other hand, made excellent hot toddies-- a quick fix-me-up for a recent sick spell. Yet still the noodles sat.

But as the fridge progressed to barrenness (with a half bag of arugula) and the shelves held a few cloves of mighty garlic as well as my sweet looking noodles, I took the initiative and headed for the fish monger…

This dish is beyond simple to make. The rich buttery taste these noodles provide is a luxurious accompaniment to seafood. And because buckwheat is actually a fruit (a relative of rhubarb), not a wheat, it is safe for all those non-gluten folks, full of fiber, potassium, manganese and helps keep blood pressure and cholesterol levels down—how is that for tricking someone into eating pasta? Even better (I’m a visual person), the purplish hue of these noodles look amazing against bright vegetables and seafood.

Serving Size= 6 persons. Active time= about 20 minutes (less with pre-cleaned shrimp)
* 1 handful dry soba noodles (about 16 ounces)
* 2 tablespoons olive oil
* 4-5 cloves garlic, crushed
* 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
* 1 lb calamari rings, rinsed
* 1 large handful arugula, rinsed well
* ¼ cup Parmesan shavings (optional)
* 6-12 Kalamata olives

1) Peel and devein the shrimp, rinse calamari; set aside.
2) Bring water to a rapid boil in a medium pot. Add noodles, stir to separate and cook about 5 minutes, until done.
3) Drain water, rinse noodles with cold water and place in serving bowl. Return pot to stovetop over medium-high heat; add olive oil.
4) Add garlic and bring to a sizzle; about 3 minutes.
5) Add shrimp, calamari and arugula, cook until shrimp turn pink and curl; about 4 minutes.
6) Add shrimp, calamari, arugula, Parmesan and olives to soba noodles. Toss to incorporate. Add more olive oil if desired. Serve warm or cold.

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