These days, I think often about gratitude. It’s so easy to slip into focusing on what you want and don’t get, and to forget how incredibly lucky you are. One of the things that I am consciously grateful for on a daily basis is good food. A visit to the farmer’s market, or my Coop, or a unique restaurant puts my good fortune right there, on display. I hope I never get so jaded that I stop being excited about my absurd good luck.
So I try to pay attention, eat mindfully, and think about where my food comes from. With gratitude.
Which brings me to some of my favorite artisans, the folks at Dumpling and Strand, Noodlers at Large. There were fresh pastas around, before they came into my life. Dumpling and Strand is better. But more than that, when I am enjoying this particular noodle, there are faces behind the food. I’m connected to a larger thing. Because I buy my pasta directly from Jeff Casper and Kelly McManus, the pasta has more meaning. And through that connection, I can see the farmers who grow the grain, and the fields of grain, rippling in the wind.
It’s bigger than just me, a plate of pasta, and a fork.
I may have put in on the plate, but a whole team of people worked on getting it there. It wouldn’t be this good without each of them taking an extra step to make sure everything was done right.
Gratitude. I owe it to all those people to pay attention and be present when I eat this food.
This particular noodle, called Wild Rice “Minnesoba,” is a perfect example. Made from wild rice grown on the Red Lake Reservation, this noodle is not something you can find anywhere. The Red Lake Band Of Chippewa grew this, and take pride in providing a high quality, delicious wild rice. It’s got history. You don’t just douse it in a jar of red sauce, either.
Soba is an ancient Japanese tradition, and it’s usually made with buckwheat. But the creative locavore minds at D & S found a parallel in wild rice. Dark, earthy, nutty wild rice is the flavor of Minnesota, in my book. The grassy, slightly smoky flavor is like no other food. Putting the wild rice in a soba noodle allows you to really appreciate the flavor, with the element of texture removed.
So, to play it all up, I went with meaty, seared shiitakes, and toasty hazelnuts. The shiitakes are grown locally, so they are nice and fresh. Dark sesame oil gives it an Asian feel, as well as more meaty, umami oomph. A carrot for color and sweetness, and some anise-y Thai Basil adds more spark to the dish.
The fact that it all comes together in as long as it takes to chop some mushrooms and boil a pot of water is another thing to celebrate. Wild rice flavor, in a noodle that cooks in two minutes?
For that alone, a standing ovation, to everybody who made this meal possible!
Wild Rice "Minnesoba" with Seared Shiitakes and Hazelnuts
- 1 package Dumpling and Strand Minnesoba
- 5 ounces fresh shiitakes stemmed and sliced
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 large carrot julienned
- 2 teaspoons tamari
- 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
- 1/2 cup fresh Thai Basil slivered
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts toasted and coarsely chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh Thai Basil for garnish
- Sriracha Sauce
- Put on a big pot of water for the soba. Prep all the veggies and have them ready.
- In a large saute pan, heat the canola oil over medium high heat. Add the shiitakes to the hot pan, and stir. Cook, stirring, until browned and shrunken, about 4 minutes. Take off the heat.
- Drop the soba into the boiling water for 2 minutes, throw the carrots in, too. Stir well, and drain when just cooked.
- Add the soba to the pan with the shiitakes, and drizzle with tamari and sesame oil. Toss to mix. Serve sprinkled with hazelnuts and basil, and garnished with a sprig of basil. Drizzle with Sriracha and serve.