It’s already November, well into the fall season. Depending on where you live, fresh produce from your home garden may be done until next spring. Thankfully, there are a few hardy radishes and the last scallions to be harvested from our garden which add some crisp texture, fresh flavors and tangy “bite” to this preparation. With the addition of a few foraged wild mushrooms, it’s enough to make a wonderfully earthy dish, featuring hearty Japanese soba noodles.
Soba noodles are made with buckwheat, a grain-like seed that has absolutely nothing to do with wheat. The buckwheat plant (Fagopyrum esculentum) has a long and rather interesting history. Neither a grain nor a grass, buckwheat is actually related to rhubarb, and was first domesticated and cultivated in Southeast Asia, possibly as early as 8,000 years ago.
Buckwheat is a short season crop, requiring only 10 or 11 weeks to grow to maturity, and requires only marginally fertile soil. Quick growing, hardy buckwheat was an important – and common – crop in North America until the 20th century when cheap chemical fertilizers made it more profitable to grow corn and wheat. Buckwheat became something of a novelty, relegated to use in pancakes and ethnic specialties.
While buckwheat production and consumption declined in the West, it remained an important food throughout Asia. Buckwheat noodles, especially, continued to play a major role in the cuisines of Japan and Korea. Soba (buckwheat in Japanese) noodles have become quite well known to fans of Japanese cooking. Their nutty, earthy flavor and firm texture make them well suited to both traditional dishes and modern, innovative preparations.
More good news; soba noodles made from 100% buckwheat flour are gluten free, making them an excellent choice for those with gluten sensitivity. Just make sure to read the label carefully; some brands of “soba noodles” may also contain wheat.
This recipe doesn’t stray too far from traditional, Japanese-style soba dishes. It features the fabulous matsutake mushroom, which quite literally means “pine mushroom” in Japanese (matsu = pine + take = mushroom). Matsutake mushrooms grow in association with certain species of pine trees, a fact that is clearly evident in their appealingly spicy, piney aroma and flavor. Matustake also have a very firm texture, which makes them excellent candidates for roasting. A short marinade in soy sauce and mirin, followed by a quick roasting in a very hot oven concentrates and intensifies their wonderful flavor.
If you live in the right part of the world, fresh matsutake can be foraged right now, but if you don’t, you can purchase them in season at our retail website, earthy.com. You can also substitute other fresh wild or cultivated mushrooms; fresh shiitakes will work especially well in this dish.
Soba Noodles with Roasted Matsutake Mushrooms
- 5 – 6 oz soba noodles
- 1 bunch scallions, cleaned, trimmed and sliced diagonally
- 1 teaspoon EACH white & black sesame seeds, plus more for garnish
- 1/2 lb fresh matsutake mushrooms (substitute fresh shiitake or other firm wild or cultivated mushrooms)
- 2 Tbsp soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp mirin
- 1 Tbsp fresh young ginger, thinly sliced and julienned
- 1 small bunch of radishes
- 1/4 cup Sumiso Dressing (see recipe below)
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons white miso
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled & minced
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons fresh young ginger, finely minced
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients. While whisking briskly, slowly pour in the oil in a thin stream. Continue to whisk until the oil is completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth and creamy. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook the soba noodles
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the soba noodles and return to a boil; cook the noodles for 8 minutes. Drain immediately and rinse under cold running water. Drain completely and set aside.
Roast the mushrooms
Clean the matsutake mushrooms by brushing away any dirt & forest debris. Rinse briefly under cold running water if especially dirty. Trim the base of the stem with a sharp paring knive or vegetable peeler as needed. Cut the mushrooms thickly lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Place the sliced mushrooms in a large shallow dish and toss with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons mirin. Allow to marinate for 20 minutes, turning occasionally so all pieces are evenly coated with the marinade.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Drain the marinating matsutake mushrooms, reserving the mirin-soy sauce mixture. Place the mushrooms in a single layer in a baking pan and put them into the oven to roast for approximately 15 minutes. Turn the mushrooms every 5 minutes, basting them at the same time with the reserved marinade. When the mushrooms are tender and darkly caramelized around the edges, remove them from the oven.
Toss the soba noodles with 1/4 cup of the dressing, or more if desired. Add the sliced ginger, sesame seeds, half the sliced scallions and the matsutake mushrooms and toss again. Top with paper-thin radish slices and sprinkle with the reserved sliced scallions and additional sesame seeds, if desired.
Note: The soba noodles and dressing may be prepared a day in advance and stored separately. Roast the mushrooms and assemble the dish just before serving.
Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.
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