For the most part, I try and eat healthy. Sure there is the occasional Short Rib Sandwich and Gigantic Chocolate Cake; and I have been known to go through a couple of pounds of butter at a time when I go on a baking binge. But I usually try and force those treats on others so as not to eat them all myself. And when it comes to making meal choices, I try to balance the good with the bad. Because when I eat healthy I do feel better. That's not to say a piece of cake can’t make me feel good once in a while as well.
This month’s Food and Wine magazine is geared towards healthy eating, with an entire issue devoted to recipes that won’t make you feel bad for consuming them. I was excited after reading it, because not only are all of the recipes healthier than normal, but they still look just as delicious. Of course wouldn't you know it, that I gravitated towards the one recipe that involved noodles? Because what can I say, I’m a noodle nut.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a carbohydrate that I didn’t absolutely adore, and any type of pasta or noddles are up there among my favorites. Left to my own devices, I believe I could polish off a pound of pasta by myself. At the very least I would attempt it. it wouldn't even have to have anything on it. Sometimes my favorite way to eat pasta is plain, or with simply a little bit of butter and salt.
But pasta and noodles are not exactly my best friend when it comes to healthy eating. And so, I stay away from them for the most part. If it were up to me I would eat them every single night, but I know I must abstain. So I tend to stick to lean meats and veggies, and whole grain and high in fiber carbohydrates instead.
But I still dream of noodles. And so, when I found out that Japanese soba noodles are loaded with health benefits, I felt my heart soar. Soba noodles are made of buckwheat flour, which is different than wheat flour in a good way. Among the major health benefits of buckwheat is that it contains choline, a compound in the vitamin B complex that among other things, decreases cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, and reduces fat accumulation. It also contains bioflavonoids which have been found as a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals, those nasty things responsible for many cancers.
Pretty cool right? It turns out I can have my healthy food and eat my noodles too. And it gets even better as they are also extremely tasty. The thickness is similar to angel hair, and the texture is on the al dente side which I love. They’ve also got a great kind of earthy nuttiness flavor to them which is really delicious. They adapt well to hot or cold applications, and soak up whatever flavors you decide to put on them.
What I liked about this particular recipe is that it was easy enough to prepare on a weeknight, but special enough to make you feel like it’s the weekend. I also think that it could be a starting point on which I could make many other variations. Maybe add some chopped peanuts for crunch, bringing some freshly grated ginger in to the mix, or sautéing some broccoli or mushrooms to amp up the veggie quotient.
So if you're a noodle nut like me, and you try and eat healthy, this could be a great recipe to add to your repertoire. Happy eating!
Soba Noodles with Grilled Shrimp and Cilantro
From Food and Wine, March 2010
6 ounces soba noodles
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons tamari*
1 teaspoon agave syrup**
2 large shallots, thinly sliced and separated into rings
6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined***
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Lime wedges, for serving
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring, until tender, 4 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. In a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the oil with the soy sauce, tamari and agave syrup. Add the noodles and toss.
In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden brown and crisp, 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shallots to paper towels. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook over low heat until golden and crisp, 2 minutes. Transfer the garlic to the paper towels.
Light a grill or preheat a grill pan (I reused the same pan I cooked the shallots and garlic in). In a bowl, combine the lime zest and juice with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Stir in the shrimp and season with salt. Grill the shrimp over high heat, turning once, until glazed and just white throughout, 3 minutes.
Arrange the noodles on a large platter. Sprinkle with the scallions, cilantro, crushed red pepper and the fried shallots and garlic. Arrange the shrimp on top and serve with lime wedges alongside.
*I didn’t have any tamari on hand, so I used additional soy sauce instead.
**Agave syrup is also referred to as agave nectar. If you don’t have either, any other kind of sweetener would work here as well.
***These instructions are helpful if you've never deveined shrimp before