Chilled noodle salads make perfect warmer weather meals as they are simultaneously refreshing and satisfying. Here, the earthy flavor of soba noodles, made from a combination of buckwheat and wheat, are enlivened by tangy rice-vinegar-pickled cucumbers and a zippy dressing made with ginger and shiso. Read more
I felt like writing about unique noodles this week – cool varieties that probably weren’t in your grandma’s pantry. One of my favorites is black, regular pasta that’s been infused with squid ink. The black ink lends a brilliant flavor of the sea (slightly salty, mildly sweet). I also love brown rice noodles because they’re 100% whole grain, gluten-free and a good source of fiber (4 grams in 2 ounces). They’re also light, making them ideal for richer sauces like Pad Thai and my spicy curry sauce below. Lastly, I adore soba noodles. Made from buckwheat, they’re loaded with nutrients and incredibly hearty (and surprisingly, they contain almost half the calories of regular white flour pasta). Soba noodles are also excellent cold (the Japanese rely on cold noodle dishes during their sizzling hot/humid summers).
Not only did I create three recipes for each of the three types of noodles, I made sure they were from different parts of the globe. The squid ink recipe is Italian-inspired, the brown rice noodles boast the flavor of India and the soba noodles are distinctly Asian. And get this, for you brown-baggers out there, all three dishes are excellent served cold or room temperature.
I’m a long-time fan of buckwheat and was so excited to see it on the American Farm Bureau’s list of hot food trends for 2009.
What is buckwheat?
Though usually referred to as a cereal grain, buckwheat is actually a type of fruit. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious! A relative of the rhubarb plant, buckwheat has a mild nutty flavor and a slightly softer texture than other grains. Mainstream uses for buckwheat are flour (great for pancakes), soba noodles (shown above) and kasha. Kasha — or “buckwheat groats” — are the whole buckwheat kernel; you can find them roasted or unroasted at most health food stores. The buckwheat plant’s flowers are used to make a dark, rich honey.