Waste-Less Wednesday: Soba Noodles with 650 Gremolata

March 12, 2015 § 1 Comment

Today’s Birthday Week indulgence is homemade comfort food that brings together two recent Waste-Less Wednesday ingredients: lemons and herbs. Remember those 7-Day Preserved Lemons? After a week of climbing the kitchen stepladder to shake those babies up, it’s time to crack them open and take them for a taste test!

So... how'd they turn out?

So… how’d they turn out?

Opening the mason jar of marinated lemons after it spent a week in the surprisingly warm upper-reaches of my kitchen, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would they actually taste ok, or would the flavors be off? Would this be another kitchen experiment to hit the compost bin?

The first bite was soft, tart, and salty. The rinds and flesh had softened, but weren’t mooshy, with the lemon flesh coming away from the soft rinds easily. The flavor was definitely Meyer — lemon with a hint of tangerine — and tart, but not puckeringly so. Ooooh, this was gonna be good! (And a little weird when I realized that I was eating wedges of lemon!) I almost forgot the final step of the process, which was to cover the lemons in olive oil to help preserve them in the fridge. So, now I have these salty, somewhat-tart, soft lemons dipped in olive oil. Nothin’ bad about that!

Almost forgot to top up the jar with olive oil!

Almost forgot to top up the jar with olive oil!

In general, I wouldn’t eat these preserved lemons out of the jar, but I could think of all the ways that they would be a flavorful accent to pasta, fish, or a composed salad. What to make first? I love the idea of gremolata — a classic Italian condiment of fresh lemon zest, parsley, and garlic — but with a twist. When making the classic version, you’ll get the best results when all ingredients are freshest. But what if your ingredients aren’t super-fresh? How about a variation that brings together roasted garlic, preserved lemons, and minced parsley?

Using preserved lemons means that you can use the whole lemon, not just the zest. Roasting garlic cloves lets you extend the life of your garlic, giving it a sweet but complex flavor and soft texture that makes it more versatile. And even less-than-fresh parsley has something to add to this combo! (I’ll confess that I keep my parsley in a ziplock bag for two weeks or more, weeding out the <ahem> discolored or floppy branches. It’s not always pretty, but I’m doing what I can to get the most out of a bunch of parsley.) And the best part is that you can prepare all the components in advance and store them in your refrigerator until you’re ready to put them together!

So, inspired by the classic gremolata, here’s my recipe for a homemade mid-week meal that is flavorful, comforting, and indulgent.

Recipe: Soba Noodles with 650 Gremolata
Yield: 1 serving
This pasta is on the lighter side and perfect for a weeknight spring meal or weekend lunch. The recipe makes enough for one person. Double up if you’re cooking for two (or just want some leftovers). Scale up if you’re cooking for a crowd. Feel free to make adjustments to the parsley, garlic, or lemon or amount of pasta based on your taste and preferences. Add a seasonal green salad with grated carrots or tomato wedges to round out the meal.

Ingredients (per serving):

1 wedge preserved lemon, chopped finely
4 large roasted garlic cloves*, peeled or removed from their papery casings
2 tablespoons parsley leaves, chopped finely
2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauté pan
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 – 3 tablespoons shredded cheese (Asiago, Parmesan, or a blend)
2 – 2¼ ounces soba noodles
Salt and black pepper to taste
Optional: 1 – 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Make the preserved lemons and roasted garlic in advance and store them in your refrigerator

Make the preserved lemons and roasted garlic in advance and store them in your refrigerator

* To roast garlic: You can roast garlic in a toaster oven or toss it into the baking dish when making roasted vegetables in a full-sized oven. Preheat oven to 400° F. Cut the top off a head of garlic and peel away a couple of the head’s outer paper-like layers. Place the garlic head in the center of a 5″ square piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle the garlic with olive oil (don’t douse it) and then fold the foil around the garlic head, enclosing it. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until the cloves are soft enough to pierce with a sharp knife or skewer.

What you need:

Small sauté pan
Medium bowl
4-quart pot for the noodles

How to:

  1. Start heating the water for the noodles while you make the gremolata.
    Review the package directions for the amount of water to boil. By the time you’ve made the gremolata, the pasta should be ready to go into the pot.
  2. Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in the sauté pan over medium heat.
  3. Add the chopped preserved lemon and sauté for 2-3 minutes until lightly brown and fragrant. Remove from heat.

    Saute the preserved lemon just until it colors a bit and is fragrant, 2-3 minutes.

    Sauté the preserved lemon just until it colors a bit and is fragrant,
    2-3 minutes.

  4. Place the garlic cloves in the medium bowl and crush them with the back of a spoon until you have a garlic paste.

    Soft, roasted garlic cloves crush easily with the back of a spoon -- or you can use a mortar and pestle, if you wanna get fancy

    Soft, roasted garlic cloves crush easily with the back of a spoon — or use a
    mortar and pestle, if you wanna get fancy

  5. Add the olive oil to the garlic paste and mix together using a spoon or fork.
  6. Add the parsley, sautéed lemon, and roasted red pepper, mixing to combine. Set aside while you make the noodles.

    650 gremolata: ready for pasta

    650 gremolata: ready for pasta

  7. Follow the package directions for making soba noodles.
    Make sure that you drain the noodles well, removing as much water as possible after cooking.
  8. Add the noodles to the gremolata mixture, tossing to coat the pasta thoroughly.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Turn out into a serving bowl or dish and sprinkle with shredded cheese.

    Mmmm... earthy soba noodles with garlicky, lemony, herbal goodness.

    Mmmm… earthy soba noodles with garlicky, lemony, herbal goodness.

  11. Want to add to the indulgence? Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts.

Shop Local: San Mateo Farmers’ Market

March 22, 2014 § Leave a comment

This first Saturday of spring brought a perfect morning for visiting the College of San Mateo (CSM) Farmers’ Market: sunny, clear blue skies, and just a touch of coolness in the air that you know will make way for a pleasantly warm day later. Bliss!

Local kale at San Mateo farmers' market

Doesn’t get more local than this: kale from Pescadero, CA

This kind of day is one of the reasons I’m happy and grateful to live in the Bay Area. Spring arrives, well, pretty much on time, and with it the bounty and beauty of spring produce. Strawberries and spring greens and handfuls of fresh herbs — oh my!

The farmers’ market at CSM is one of the largest on the Peninsula and includes not only small-farm produce, but small/artisan food producers as well. While you’ll find a nice assortment of bakers, confectioners, and makers of small-batch pickles (oh, and Curry Up Now’s food truck!), seasonal fruits and vegetables are the draw. What I particularly love about this market is that some of San Mateo county’s best small farms — and, in particular, organic farms — are represented here. There’s no better opportunity to invest in your local food system than by connecting directly with the people who grow your food.

Below is a quick roundup of what I saw at the market today. Do you have a favorite market in your town? What are you buying? Better yet: what are you making with your market finds?

Fresh Herbs
Cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, thyme, and chives were available from most organic farmstands. I took home large bunches of parsley, thyme, and chives. Can’t wait to use them in salads and as a garnish for grilled fish.

Bright red strawberries are in abundance, and they just about glow in the sunlight! They’re not as sweet as mid-summer berries, but for early season berries, they’re definitely flavorful. Much better than what you’ll find in the local grocery store.

baskets of strawberries

Bright red strawberries, freshly picked

Root Vegetables and Brassicas
Carrots, beets (reds and goldens), radishes, broccoli, kale. Yes, kale is everywhere: curly kale, dino kale, red kale. No shortage of kale this morning.

Colorful assortment of spring vegetables

Add some color to your diet — there are so many options!

Spring Greens
Colorful chard, dandelion greens, salad mixes with flowers, Little Gems, and stinging nettles. Salad for everybody! Want more information about the variety of spring greens available? Check out CUESA’s guide to greens.

Colorful spring vegetables

Greens for making colorful salads and for braising

Spring Flowers
Colorful assortments from Half Moon Bay, Pescadero, and Watsonville: freesias, tulips, ranunculus, irises.

Fresh spring flowers

Fresh spring flowers, grown locally

What: San Mateo Farmers’ Market
Where: College of San Mateo
Directions: Visit the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association site
Saturdays, year-round: 9am-1pm
*Tip: If you’re driving west on Hilldale Boulevard, keep going past College Heights Drive, which is the first entrance to the College of San Mateo (CSM). You’ll want to take the next right onto Perimeter Road. You’ll see the tents for the market in the parking lot to your left.

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