Thursday, August 1, 2013

Buckwheat is So Neat - Soba with Asparagus in Sesame Tamari

Since I am making another cold Soba dish, I thought it might be nice to provide a little information that spawned my infatuation with Buckwheat.

First off, buckwheat is not a "Wheat" at all; it's related to Sorrel and Rhubarb.  Which is fortuitous for anyone who is gluten intolerant.  It's what is called a pseudo-cereal, meaning that it is not a grass, like Wheat, Rye, Barley, Corn, Millet and Rice.  Buckwheat shares this illustrious "pseudo-grain" categorization with Chia, Quinoa and Amaranth as well, which are all seeds of plants, but not actual "grains" per se.   The name "Buckwheat" more than likely stems (no pun intended) from the seed's triangular shape, which closely resembles the nuts of the Beech tree. (Beech-Nut is not just a gum brand)  The Dutch word for Beech is "Beuk" and the Dutch word for Wheat is "Weite" (since the seeds were used like wheat) thus you have what is basically "Beech Wheat" when translated.

Regardless of it's linguistic origin, Beechwheat/Buckwheat is one of the worlds most perfect foods.  It contains a high level of well-balanced protein and is high in the amino acid, lysine.  In fact, it's complement of proteins are just about as high as Soy, but Buckwheat lacks the Trypsin inhibitors, that interfere with your bodies ability to digest proteins, found in un-fermented Soy products (this is not an issue with Tempeh and Miso).  Buckwheat also carries a full compliment of trace minerals like Zinc, Copper, Magnesium and Potassium, without Soy's high Phytic acid count, that blocks the uptake of these minerals.

Basically, what I am saying is that Buckwheat (whose cultivation stretches back to almost 6000 BC) can do just about anything "Soy" can do, and it does it better. (that includes Buckwheat protein isolates)  It's higher in fiber, lower in fat and full of more phytonutrients than Soy (minus the phytoestrogens).  It's also high in the bioflavinoid Rutin which has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties as well as assisting in controlling blood pressure.

To top it all off, when Honey Bees pollinate this cover crop, the honey produced is dark, sultry and delicious over pancakes.  A total win win if you ask me.  Especially since Buckwheat likes poorly fertilized, highly acidic soils and can be planted in fallow fields to control weed growth (smother crop).  After harvest, and tilling under, the plant matter makes the phosphorus and calcium more available to the next crop.

Buckwheat is believed to have been "domesticated" around 6000 BC in south eastern China, but it quickly spread to east to Japan and west to Tibet and beyond to Europe.  Pollen has been found in both Japan and the Balkans suggesting cultivation as early as 4000 BC.  Currently, Eastern Europe and Asia are the largest producers of Buckwheat, but most regions have some form of "buckwheat" in their cuisine.  Italy has Pizzoccheri and Bléc (or Bleons), Japan has Soba (Buckwheat noodles), Korea has "Naeng Myun" (buckwheat/sweet potato vermicelli), France has the Galette di Sarrasin (Buckwheat Crepe) from Brittany which may have spawned the Colonial American Buckwheat Pancake.  Then again, maybe it was the Blini in Russia that started the Flap Jack phenomenon. There are also yeasted rolls called Hrechanyky in the Ukraine.  Mostly, however, it is groats, the hulled and toasted seeds cooked in water, stock or milk of some sort until soft.  Known as Kasha, this preparation is the traditional filling for Knishes.

So much Buckwheat potential, so little time.

Soba with Asparagus in Sesame Tamari

1/2 cup Low Salt Tamari (not Shoyu)
1/4 cup Chicken Stock or Dashi
2 tsp Honey
3 TB Sesame Seeds, toasted
1 lb Asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
12 oz Soba (Buckwheat Noodles)
4 Green Onions, sliced

Combine Tamari, Chicken Stock, Honey and 1 1/2 TB Sesame seeds in a blender....

Blend until smooth (and foamy), then set aside.

In a large pot of boiling water, drop the Asparagus and blanch for 2 minutes.

Remove asparagus with a spider...

and plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking and maintain the bright green color.

Using the same boiling water, boil the Soba for 3-4 minutes.

Drain and rinse under cold water to cool them slightly.

Place Soba in a large bowl and anoint with the sesame dressing.

Toss to coat and allow to cool to room temperature, tossing occasionally to keep the dressing dispersed.

Drain the Asparagus and blot dry.

Add the Asparagus and Green Onions to the Soba and toss again.

Serve with remaining Sesame Seeds.


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