Monday, 7 April 2014

Cold Plated Cuisine

Vermicelli "Soba", con Funghi "Mu-Err", Ravanelli & Verdure Miste
Cold Soba Noodles with Mu-Err Mushrooms, Radishes & Vegetables

Spring is in the air... and even if we have just been getting little glimpses and a taste of things to come... the sun WILL come out! Maybe not tomorrow, like it will for Annie, but sometime soon. And when it does come out and when the temperatures do start climbing higher and higher... you might want to make a little something like this for supper!

Soba, or buckwheat noodles, are delicious served either hot or cold, when they are combined with fresh, crunchy vegetables... or so I had heard and until this evening, I had never actually eaten them served cold- as a salad if you will. But I have now. And I will do so again! 

As usual, I improvised my little creation, using what I had got in the fridge and in my cupboard... no great amount of planning here, but a fait bit of happy coincidence! I had some dried "Mu-Err" mushrooms in the cupboard for example- you know, those funny-looking, rubbery things you used to get in your hot and sour soup in the 80's? That you picked up at the Asian supermarket, feeling clever... but never got around to using?

But I also had some fresh sugar-snap peas, Spring onions, a stick of celery, a carrot, a hunk of ginger and a handful of radishes- and I wasn't afraid to use them! And together with the Soba noodles, some 5-spice powder, sesame oil, chili and Hoisin sauce, a pretty amazing meal was put together in just 30 minutes or so. And I would say that, THAT, is a good thing!

The first thing to be done was for the mushrooms to be soaked. I did this using boiling water, which does the job in 15-20 minutes... warm water will take about 45 and cold will take an hour at least... so it all depends on how much time you have. Simply place them mushrooms into a much larger bowl and cover generously with water... because these little things will grow to at least 3-times their size!

Whilst the mushrooms soak, you can stay busy chopping up the vegetables... the carrots into sticks, the celery into slices, the radishes into quarters, the ginger (about 2") into a fine dice and the Spring onion into a relatively fine diagonal slice.

After 20 minutes or so, my little mushrooms had soaked up lots of water and had become these huge, rather rubbery versions of themselves. I gave them a rinse , but retained the water they had soaked in as it had lots of good flavor... but also, unfortunately quite a bit of sand- so I poured the water through a coffee filter to make sure it was fine and delicious.

When it comes to chopping these mushrooms up, it can be a bit bothersome, so I suggest you do this: cut off any remnants of stalks as they are going to be tough and nasty anyway and then roll them together in the same way as you can see in the photo. That way all, you need to do is to simply make a straight cut and the problem is solved. Quick and easy... that's my favorite kinda meal!

Speaking of which- by now it is time to get this party started and to get those noodles boiling!

Whilst the noodles boiled in a small saucepan, I popped the mushrooms, ginger, carrots and celery into a hot non-stick pan with a nice drizzle of sesame oil and flash-fried them for 2-3 minutes at the highest temperature until the radishes began to turn translucent.

I then sprinkled them with a teaspoon of 5-spice powder and deglazed the pan with a ladle-full of the boiling noodle water. I then added the sugar-snap peas- just a handful and tossed everything together. 

As soon as the noodles were done, I drained them and rinsed them in cold water to abruptly cool them off, then added them to the frying pan and turned off the heat. I then added a little more oil, a squeeze of Sriracha chili sauce, a good splash of sesame oil again and a drop or two of honey, to accentuate the great, sweet flavors of the peas, carrots and even the radishes.

This whole dish lives from the subtle flavors and the freshness of the ingredients- it is a perfect, ultra-light dish for a sunny Spring or Summer evening!

I served them up with a drizzle of Hoisin sauce, sesame seeds and a smile on my face... because this as fresh and colorful as could be! The radishes have a similar crunch and flavor as water-chestnuts which is great with the crispy peas as well- all in all it's a really great combo! One for you to make... and one for you to enjoy! So go do it!

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