Kombu (kelp) is a great addition to a pot of simmering beans; it adds minerals, a touch of salt (I still add salt later in the cooking process), and helps tenderize and make the beans easier to digest. There are also hijiki, wakame (a frequent addition to miso soup), nori (as seen in maki), arame, dulse, and many more. Arame is a great place to start, especially for those who are not used to the oceany taste of sea vegetables. It has a mild flavor and complements a wide variety of dishes, from stir-fries, salads, and soups, to noodle dishes and grain and bean combinations.
Thin Japanese soba noodles, made with wheat and buckwheat flours, are delicate and lighter than semolina or white flour pasta, and yet also more satisfying.
Soba Noodles with Arame and Shiitakes
This soba dish makes a nice vegetarian main course, and would also be great served with grilled or broiled fish, chicken, or tofu.
Serves 2 to 3 as a main course
2 Tbsp sesame oil or extra virgin olive oil (the flavors in the sauce are intense, so the taste of the XVOO, if you use it, will not come through)
1/2 lb green beans, stem ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, fibrous stems removed, caps sliced thinly
1/4 cup dried arame, soaked in water for 10 minutes and drained
4 oz soba noodles (or more, depending on how noodle-y you'd like the finished dish), cooked for 6 to 7 minutes in boiling salted water until al dente, and drained
2 Tbsp tamari or shoyu (traditionally fermented Japanese soy sauces)
2 Tbsp mirin (sweet rice wine; look for one without added sugar)
2 Tbsp Japanese rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp minced or grated fresh ginger (peeled)
1 Tbsp minced garlic (about 1 large or 2 small cloves)
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
Sesame seeds or gomasio (a Japanese condiment of crushed sesame seeds and sea salt) for garnish (optional)
- Heat oil in a saute pan over medium-high heat, then add green beans and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add shiitakes and saute for another 5 minutes. Then add rehydrated arame and cook for a few minutes more.
- In a bowl combine tamari or shoyu, mirin, rice wine vinegar, ginger, and garlic. Add mixture to vegetables. Cover and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes, until sauce has reduced a bit and vegetables are tender.
- Add cooked soba to pan, drizzle with toasted sesame oil, and toss well to combine.
- Garnish each serving with sesame seeds or gomasio.