The summer garden is busting at the seams. Just one problem, according to my maples and the overnight temperatures threatening frost, all environmental signs are screaming fall. I'm struggling with the urgency to concoct sultry weather favorites in volume but my barometer sensitive soul is aching for cool weather culinary comforts.
Enter the soba noodle. I'm a number one fan of this buckwheat delicacy. I still mourn the passing of one of the most spectacular dining experiences in Soho, the soba mecca "Hanmura An" that featured a glass cage showcasing artisans hand slicing nutty brown beauties by hand. The genius of the place was that they didn't stop at the noodle. No indeed. They used the soba base to make gnocchi and a host of beautiful buckwheat based mouthfuls.
As a flavor, soba is nutty: dark with a soupçon of chew. It's a gorgeous winter comfort in soup but easily translates into a bright salad. That's why it's perfect for this nebulous time of year. And with a tip of the hat to Hanmura An's whimsical take on soba and my own impatience (you usually have to let the dough rest for a few hours to overnight to make the noodle strips but I use it immediately to make orecchiette), I've chosen to use a small portion of the dough to make orecchiette for dinner tonight so that I might enjoy the fruits of my summer garden while savoring the welcome chill in the air.
Buckwheat Orecchiette with Spicy Tahini Sauce and Summer Vegetables
For the Soba
2 cups buckwheat flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
Whisk together the dry ingredients until combined. Stir in the water and vinegar until clumps form.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly buckwheat floured work surface and knead the dough until it sticks together into a cohesive mass.
For soba noodles, wrap the dough in damp paper towels and then wrap tightly in plastic wrap overnight so that the dough hydrates. This makes it much easier to roll out and cut into noodle strips. Buckwheat is potentially crumbly as a dough base and that's while you'll often see the dough cut with wheat flour so that it holds together more readily. Feel free to cut the buckwheat flour in this recipe with whole wheat, substituting 1/4 flour of the buckwheat for whole wheat.
Fun Factoid: Buckwheat is not a wheat berry. It's a fruit berry and therefore, gluten free. It falls in the same family as rhubarb.
For the orecchiette, I take about 1/4 of the newly made dough ( I wrap the rest for soba noodles I'll make a day later but you can use all the dough for orecchiette if you like). Have a moistened paper towel handy to cover the dough while you work.
Take a small piece, smaller than a dime and roll into a tight ball.
Flatten the ball in your palm.
Press with your thumb to create a round "bowl" like piece of dough.
Set aside to dry and continue with the remaining dough. Makes about 60 pieces. Enough for one plate of dinner goodness.
Boil the orecchiette in salted, boiling water as you would pasta. Five minutes should do it. Strain and set aside.
For the sauce
2 tablespoons low sodium organic chicken broth
2 tablespoons tamari (organic soy sauce)
2 tablespoons tahini (sesame spread, you can substitute peanut or almond butter)
1 teaspoon mirin (rice cooking wine)
1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (use the spicy variety for a little more punch)
1 tablespoon sriracha (spicy chili sauce)
Whisk all the ingredients until emulsified and smooth.
You can add any variety of fresh vegetables to your soba salad. Today, I had cucumber and roma tomatoes fresh from the garden. For a single serving, I chopped 1/4 of a cucumber into small pieces and sliced 4 Roma tomatoes. I also added a tablespoon of finely chopped sweet onion for texture and flavor.
Toss together the orecchiette, vegetables and 2 to 3 tablespoons of the sauce. Save the rest of the sauce to dress a green salad or more soba.
I add a poached egg from the sweet girls in the back for extra protein.
Summer to fall never tasted better.