It seems like only yesterday that I was sneaking out to the Farmer’s Market in the bracing chill of Spring, trying not to wake my sweetheart as I stumbled over shoes in the dark bedroom. Now, we are on the other end of the season, and the early morning chill is a bittersweet signal that it will all be over far too soon.
But on the up side, this is the time of year when we have the broadest selection. Tomatoes share display space with sweet corn, squash and raspberries, and tender leaves like spinach and arugala that got a little too bitter in the heat are starting to calm down.
So when I made my trek to pick up the makings of an easy meal at the Mill City Farmers Market, I knew that I would have my pick of great ingredients. I was already laser focused on getting pasta from Dumpling and Strand, Noodlers at Large, and of course, bread from Baker’s Field Flour and Bread.
So when I saw the breathtaking black noodles on display, I just had to try them. They are handmade, artisanal, and one of the limited, rotating variations that the D & S noodlers like to put out there to keep us on our toes. So even if you get to the Market this week, they won’t be there. Yes, they are made with squid ink, and some of you vegan readers will want to avoid that, so you can either buy the buckwheat noodles from D & S, or use Lotus Foods black rice ramen instead for this quick recipe. Click the link for a recipe for Black Rice Ramen with Nasturtiums. You can find Lotus Foods Black Rice Ramen at your local Coop or natural foods store. They are a fantastic whole grain noodle, too, making this an appropriate recipe for celebrating Whole Grains Month. (Click to enter to win a book!)
Just take a look at this amazing noodle display- you can see why I was drawn to the black ramen like a bee to a flower. It is made with ground sesame mixed in with the dough, for a wonderful nutty taste, and the texture is amazingly supple and just firm enough, not fragile or crumbly. Jeff at Dumpling and Strand tells me that this ramen will back, and we will just have to keep an eye out for it to cycle back in again. The other noodles are also fantastic, and I would grab that buckwheat noodle, or even the whole grain linguine to use in this recipe in a heartbeat.
My next find was some locally grown, absolutely fresh and tender baby ginger. It was so juicy and mild, I could have used twice as much. I’d already picked up a hunk of fresh turmeric, so I was leaning toward a bit of mild spiciness in my noodle sauce.
(Here’s a recipe for Carrot Turmeric Tonic from the last time I found fresh ginger and turmeric at the Market.)
Eating fresh ginger and turmeric is so health-promoting that I almost don’t want to bring it up, for fear you’ll think they are health foods. Trust me, as you enjoy the flavor, you will be building your immune system for the coming season, staving off inflammation, and protecting your brain from Alzheimers. It’s a win-win that they are also so delicious together.
So, I decided to “noodle” a little and improvise a sauce with ginger, turmeric, chiles, and the tomatoes and garlic chives I grow in my own garden. The noodles are so gorgeous as a backdrop for all that orange and red, I really didn’t need much more.
I wanted to really accentuate the sesame flavor, so I used toasted sesame oil to barely saute the ginger and turmeric. I kept the heat gentle to protect the delicate oil. I also pulled out my secret weapon, Gomasio.
Gomasio is a Japanese condiment, an ancient traditional seasoning made by simply toasting sesame seeds with coarse salt and then grinding the mixture to a coarse powder. I keep a jar of it in the refrigerator, where it keeps indefinitely. Try making your own, just put a cup of brown or white sesame seeds in a small saute pan and swirl over medium-high heat until the seeds are fragrant and oily. Add a teaspoon of coarse salt and transfer to a food processor, Vitamix or spice grinder, and pulse until the seeds are coarsely ground. It’s a quick recipe for an essential condiment that you can keep in your back pocket.
It’s one of the magic ingredients that can transform a bowl of leftovers into a feast. It’s also perfect for people trying to cut down on sodium, since it has a little salt and a ton of taste.
The dish turned out to be just what I needed on a warm Fall day. Light, but filling enough, and infused throughout with smoky, nutty sesame that delivered a satisfying umami punch. In keeping with the seasonal emphasis that guides so many Asian cuisines, I used the tomatoes at hand, rather than look for an exotic vegetable. I was rewarded with a tasty sauce that was a little sweet, rounded out with a splash of tangy rice vinegar. The gomasio clung to the saucy noodles like parmesan, coating the slippery strands to good effect.
All in all, a good way to make the most of my harvest of local foods.
Squid Ink Ramen with Ginger Tomato Sauce
9 ounces fresh squid ink ramen (or 1 package black rice ramen)
2 tablespoons julienned ginger
2 tablespoons julienned turmeric root
1 medium red chile, chopped
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped garlic chives, plus flowers for garnish
2 large tomatoes, chopped and drained
Put the pot of water on to boil for the ramen.
Prep the ginger, turmeric and red chile, then heat the sesame oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat and add, stirring just to soften slightly. Cook for just a few minutes, then add the rice vinegar and salt and stir for a minute to thicken a little. Take off the heat.
Cook the ramen. It should take about 2 minutes, just check for doneness. Drain well. Put the ramen in a large bowl and add the chives,drained tomatoes and the ginger mixture and toss to coat. Add the cilantro as desired, sprinkle with gomasio on the plate.
Serve at room temperature.