Sunday, June 1, 2014

Another Bread and Another Noodle Side Dish

I have continued trying out new bread recipes from Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice." Yesterday I made a plain white sourdough bread, though there is nothing "plain" about it. This recipe called for a starter made the day beforehand, using the barm starter already in the fridge and adding more flour and water to it. Again, this new starter did nothing the entire day long, though it was supposed to have doubled in 4 hours. I have no idea why some of my starters work just as planned and others do nothing at all. Regardless, no matter what, the starter was to be refrigerated overnight. 

Interestingly, I again chose to measure everything by weight, as I mentioned in yesterday's blog. The book stated that the amount for making the pre-starter was 2/3 cup of the barm, or 4 ounces. When I scooped out 2/3 cup of my barm, it weighed in at 8 ounces! That is a radical difference. Possibly, if the barm was much more active, i.e. lots more bubbles, it would have weighed less, due to all the trapped air. I don't know. My barm was active, with plenty of bubbles, so that left me wondering. Despite this, I used only 1/3 cup of the barm to make the starter, and went with the weight.

My Sourdough Bread
My Sourdough Bread

As the main recipe stands, this starter is the only "yeast" of any kind in the recipe. That said, it is perfectly acceptable to add a little yeast to the dough on the day of making the bread, and since my starter was a non-starter, I added the 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast to the dough yesterday morning. Making the bread without the addition of extra yeast would mean much longer rising times, and possibly another chill in the fridge overnight before getting around to baking. This extended rising and chilling would ensure a stronger "soured" flavor. This would be just fine with me, but I don't believe my husband would care for it as much. Plus, there were other things I wanted to get to yesterday and didn't want to babysit the dough all day long, plus today, for it to warm to room temp before baking. So, adding the yeast  makes for more normal rising times and a less soured flavor. With the yeast the dough rose just as it should, in the times allotted in the recipe. It baked just beautifully, too, and the crumb is tender and the crust is thick and chewy. 

Soba Noodle Package Label
As I also mentioned a couple of days back, I just had a tooth pulled, so I have to be a little careful of what I eat, so I don't hurt that tender spot. Eating this beautiful sourdough bread meant being very, very careful, but that sure didn't stop me. It was GOOD. But for dinner I decided on a pasta disn with mainly soft things in it so I could eat more normally. I had planned to make a pasta dish a couple of days ago, but didn't get to it, and when I did, I noticed I had a package of Japanese 100% buckwheat "soba" noodles in my pasta drawer. I have no idea when I might have bought them, but I figured since I was cooking only for myself I would make the soba. I like buckwheat a lot; my husband does not. If you do not care for soba noodles or if you cannot fine them, feel free to use any type of pasta desired.

When I went grocery shopping last I bought some tomatoes. I wanted to make a RAW tomato soup one of these days, but I also wanted to put some into the pasta dish. I also got a couple of types of cheese and some basil, to keep my options open. I had  some of the pickled red onions I made last week so I chopped some of them and used them in the pasta salad, though any onion you prefer would be fine. I don't care for completely raw onion, but scallions would have been my second choice. This noodle dish was a complete "throw things in till it tastes right" kind of dish. It is entirely up to you what you might want to use or not use. My original thought was to make a pasta dish I used to make long ago for the kids and myself. I would boil wide egg noodles, drain and add some ghee, Parmesan and lots of cracked black pepper, basil and a can of mushrooms. This was often "dinner", just because we all loved it so much. Last evening somehow things went sideways and I ended up with an entirely different sort of dish, though I did use ghee, basil, and mushrooms.
Soba Noodles with Feta and Basil
Soba Noodles with Feta and Basil (pickled red onions on top)

Pasta should always be cooked in water that is salted to the salinity of the sea, as Mario Batali always says. If your pasta water is salted well, the pasta will come out tasting great. If not, it will taste flat. This will determine whether you need to salt the finished dish or not. I always use at least a tablespoon of coarse sea salt in my pasta cooking water, and more if I have a big pot. It absorbs enough to be flavored properly. I added no salt to the finished dish. It was my dinner last evening and it was so good, as well as beautiful. This is what I did:

Soba Noodles with Feta and Basil

Soba Noodles with Feta and Basil
Soba Noodles with Feta and Basil

serves 4 - 6 as a side dish

8 ounces soba noodles (buckwheat pasta)
1 tablespoon coarse salt for cooking water
2 teaspoons ghee (or olive oil)
1 ounce Romano cheese (or Parmesan), grated
1/2 jar mushrooms (about 2 ounces), drained
2 - 4 tablespoons fresh basil, chiffonade
1 medium tomato, cut in small cubes
2 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons pickled red onion, chopped (or substitute scallions or shallot)
fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Bring a 4 to 6 quart pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add the salt and the t]pasta and cook according to package directions, until al dente. Drain and rinse. Pour the noodles into a large bowl and add the ghee or oil and toss well, then add in all the rest of the ingredients. Toss to combine. 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.