Ukrainian Spinach with Noodles

Ukrainian spinach with noodles

Let’s explore the benefits of alternative pastas, as well as the history of semolina.  This dynamite recipe for Ukrainian Spinach and Noodles often graced my buffet tables in the 1980’s and 90’s, when I was catering historical meals.  Being so health conscious now, I have altered it to included important ghee and gluten-free pasta, both of which are optional.

Here I employ organic red lentil sedanini from Trader Joe’s, in place of wheat semolina pasta.   Based on a serving of 3/4-cup-dry, this alternative pasta is high in both protein-13grams-and fiber-12% of the RDI.  These two factors allow the sedanini’s carbohydrates-11% of the RDI -to be absorbed more slowly than that of semolina pasta; thus, it has a different impact on blood sugar.  In addition, it is believed that fiber and protein may aid in weight loss, and high fiber also improves digestion.  1

Sedanini is a superb source of iron, with its 15% of the daily requirement.  This helps with anemia, especially when eaten with foods rich in vitamin C, to increase the absorption of the non-heme iron found here-this is a plant iron, rather than iron derived from meats.  3

My Ukrainian noodles provide all these health benefits found in red lentil sendanini, plus those of powerful ghee (for information on ghee see balsamic eggs).

There is always the big question: did pasta originate in China or Italy?  The popular story is that Marco Polo found it in China, but Reay Tannahill points out in Food in History that what Polo ‘discovered’ has been taken to be something new, when actually he discovered that the Chinese had pasta ‘which are like ours’.  4

Macaroni was its common name in Italy.  It is claimed that its use goes back to Etruscan times-the time of this pre-Roman country Estruria in west-central Italy.  Therefore, it would pre-date the Chinese noodle by about 500 years.  This, however, is speculative, as it is not known if the knitting-needle-shaped objects found in tombs were indeed meant for rolling dough around.  It is verified, however, that Apicius (the first century Roman gourmet, who provided the exceptional treatise on cookery of antiquity), had recipes using lasagna in it, which allows us to see that boiled flatbread, as opposed to baked flatbread, was being used at this time.  5

From at least around 1200 A.D. , Indians and Arabs were consuming pasta.  Both had names for it meaning ‘thread’: Indians called it sevika, while Arabs used Persian rishta.  Italians made a larger noodle and named it spaghetti, derived from spago, or string.  It is attested that Italians had stuffed shapes such as ravioli and tortellini by the middle of this century, with parallels elsewhere.  Russia had pel’meni, China-won ton, Tibet-momo, and the Jewish kitchen-kreplachs.  These stuffed pasta shapes may well have originated in the Near East and then been transmitted in an arc from there.  6

Despite all these varieties, the most common Italian name for pasta seems to have been macaroni, which was flat, rather than the round shape found today.  In the English Forme of Cury, circa 1390, there is a receipt for ‘macrows’ (an anglicized plural), with butter and cheese, which is believed to not  have been accepted as a very high-class food.  7

As an aside, in its 1859 American receipt for macaroni, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend directs cooks to watch for ever-present insects in the pasta and to hold a shovel full of red-hot coals over the finished product for browning.  8

I tend to make old favorites into new recipes that meet my present needs for health, substituting high quality ingredients for those that were marginal, or even damaging, as found in the original.

It’s quite easy to stock our refrigerators with delicious, power-packed food, when we discover what our particular needs actually are.  It takes some concentrated effort at first to discover our body’s unique requirements, then we need strength to put into practice these new steps.  When we approach this endeavor with courage and perseverance, we rise above hindrances brought on by old detrimental habits, which is true in both eating and life at large.

In this way we can live more freely in every respect, promoting vibrant bodies, minds, and spirits-all of which we purpose to guard with diligence.  Enjoy this delicious dish, which increases vitality and brings immense pleasure.

References:

  1. https://www.today.com/food/best-healthy-pasta-alternative-might-be-made-lentils-t149072 and  https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323529.php
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/semolina
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/pasta
  4. Reay Tannahill, Food in History (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1988, 1973), p. 234.
  5. Ibid., p. 234.
  6. Ibid.., pp. 235, 236.
  7. Ibid., p. 236, 237.
  8. Facsimile of Mrs. Cornelius, The Young Housekeeper’s Friend  (Boston: Brown, Taggard and Chase, 1859), p.. 176..

Ukranian Spinach with Noodles  Yields: 8 entee servings.  Total prep time: 30 min (42 min, if making homemade ghee).

8 oz dried pasta  (I used  the alternative, organic, red lentil sedanini from Trader Joe’s)

8 tbsp ghee or butter  (I prefer ghee-recipe below-made from grass-fed Kerry butter, which is available most reasonably at our local Winco; Costco also carries this inexpensively-often with great sales.)

1 lg onion, chopped small

24 oz fresh spinach leaves  (Packages of organic are available at Trader Joe’s for $2.29/ 6oz.)

1 1/2 c (6 oz) Gruyere cheese, grated  (Also available reasonably at Trader’s.)

Salt and pepper to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; a fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco for $4.95 for 5 lbs.)

  1. first rise of whey solids

    If substituting butter for ghee, go directly to step 6.  To prepare health-giving ghee, which takes about 12 minutes, first prep a coffee-filter-lined strainer, over a heat-proof dish, and set aside.  Using only a heavy-bottomed saucepan, melt 8 oz unsalted butter-preferably Irish, grass-fed, Kerry butter from Costco-over medium heat, shaking pan to speed up melting.  Note: there is less wastage using only half a pound of butter, compared to doubling recipe with a pound.

  2. first breaking of milk solids

    When melted, cook until an even layer of white whey proteins forms on top (see photo above).

  3. second rising of whey proteins

    Continue cooking until milk solids break apart, and foam subsides, temperature will be about 190 degrees (a thermometer isn’t required); see photo.  At this stage you have clarified butter.  Note: if foam is starting to brown deeply and quickly, your pan is not heavy enough to make ghee; thus, remove from heat and immediately strain this clarified butter in a coffee-filter-lined strainer.

  4. ghee finished with golden color showing at edge

    To proceed with ghee, cook butterfat until second foam rises-it will begin to build in pan, as is seen in photo.  This will take 2-3 more minutes, and temperature will reach 250 degrees.  The foam will rise in pan, and there will be a hint of golden color forming at the edge of foam (see photo).  Watch carefully as dry casein particles, settled on bottom of pan, will brown quickly.

  5. Immediately, gently strain butterfat through a coffee filter, into a heat-proof dish.  Cool and transfer into an airtight container to keep out moisture.  This lasts for many weeks, at room temperature, and up to six months, when stored in the refrigerator.
  6. In a covered stock pot, over medium heat, bring to a boil: 4 qt water, 1 tbsp oil, and 2 tsp salt.
  7. Grate cheese and set aside.
  8. Melt 8 tbsp (4 oz) of ghee, or butter, in a large sauté pan over medium heat; add chopped onion and sweat-cook until translucent.
  9. the cooking down of fresh spinach

    When onion is cooked, add part of the spinach to pan and cook, adding more spinach as the first becomes limp (see photo).

  10. Meanwhile when water is boiling, add pasta to pot and cook for 5-6 minutes, until desired tenderness.  Remove from heat and drain.
  11. Add cooked pasta to pan of onions/spinach; stir gently until heated through.
  12. Toss with grated cheese; season with salt and pepper to taste.  See photo at top of recipe.
  13. This is an incredible taste treat!

Spicy Cold Noodles made w/ Ezekeil 4:9 Sprouted Grain Pasta

spicy cold noodles

This is one of my all-time favorite recipes, which I have been making every summer for 35 years.  It first blessed me, when I taught it to my students in Billings, Montana, during one of my plentiful cooking classes.

I don’t exactly remember where I got it, but believe it came in a newspaper clipping sent by my mother, for she was good at supplying me with quaint receipts from the media, during my early catering/teaching career.  Many choice dishes were thus provided, which still grace my table today.  This specific one highly pleases the palate, though it deviates slightly from its authentic roots.

There are both Korean and Chinese spicy cold noodles; both nationalities use sesame and chili oils, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and sugar in their mixes.  The Korean variation includes gochujang, a spicy pepper paste.  The Chinese sauce differs in that it calls for sesame paste and peanut butter, giving it an emulsified effect; it is tart, fiery, and slightly sweet.

My particular 1980’s account is from China, though it is Americanized with red wine vinegar instead of rice vinegar, which wasn’t readily available in Montana during the 1980’s.  This version doesn’t have the ever-present peanut butter and chili oil, but is still spicy hot with an abundance of garlic.  It is a memorable burst of flavors.

China is a vast land of varying cuisines.  Just before I left Billings, one of my students, a travel agent, was engaging me to teach these regional culinary truths, while accompanying her on a tour of a number of China’s leading provinces.  My sudden move to Portland, Oregon, in February of 1986, interrupted those plans to go abroad; nevertheless that early research still rests with me.  One of the provinces, which I was studying, was Szechuan-the home of this post’s recipe.

Noodles are common throughout this vast country; among the many variations are Chongquing hot noodles, Wuhan hot and dry noodles, Henan stewed noodles, and Beijing style Zhajiang noodles.  The latter dish reaches far beyond the Hebei Province; it is made with pork gravy, which varies greatly from southern to northern China.

The cuisine of Szechuan, also known as Chuan or Sichuan, not only produces these spicy cold noodles, but is famous for dandanmian-dandan-noodles as well; they too have a spicy sauce, and also contain preserved vegetables.  Both these dishes are street foods in Sichuan; they are served everywhere, even in small food stands on the street.

I used poetic license, in that I chose pasta that is a complete protein and a natural, low glycemic food; thus, these delicious noodles are diabetic friendly.  This brand “Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Pasta” contains the six grains and legumes, which are mentioned in this Old Testament scripture.  As published on their box, these half-dozen organic foods are germinated in pure filtered water; therefore, beneficial enzymes are activated, causing sprouting and releasing powerful nutrients, which otherwise would lay dormant.  Diabetics who can’t tolerate carbohydrates have reported good luck with this pasta, which makes this rich repast possible for them (be sure to consult with your doctor).

Join me on a trip to China with this select, health-promoting receipt!

ingredients for spicy cold noodles

Spicy Cold Noodles  Yields: 4-5 servings.  Total prep time: 30 minutes, plus several hours for chilling.  Note: may omit the chicken for a vegan recipe.

1 1b chicken, or 5 tenderloins, thawed  (All natural is best; available reasonably at Trader Joe’s.)

10 oz dry pasta  (Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Fettuccine is a complete protein pasta, which is low glycemic, diabetic friendly, and high in fiber; may choose to use a spaghetti pasta.)

1 1/3 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp garlic, chopped

1/4 c sesame paste, or tahini  (Trader Joe’s makes a good organic one.)

3 tbsp hot brewed tea

3 tbsp soy sauce  (Organic tamari is best for your body.)

3 tbsp red wine vinegar  (May also use rice vinegar.)

2 tsp sugar

Salt to taste  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

  1. Thaw chicken in a bowl of warm water.  Fill a stock pot with 4 quarts of water; bring to a boil over med/high heat.
  2. Meanwhile peel garlic cloves; cut cloves in halves or thirds; measure 2 tablespoons worth of pieces.  (This amount gives a lot of

    emulsifying tahini and tea

    bite, may use more or less to taste.)  Place garlic in a food processor and press the pulse button repeatedly, to form a med/coarse grind; stop and scrape down sides once; set aside.  (May also chop with a sharp knife, if you don’t have a processor.)

  3. Place tenderloins in boiling water; turn down heat to medium; do not add salt.  Cook for about 4 minutes, or just until pink is gone; do not overcook.  Remove from water when done and place on a plate in refrigerator.  SAVE BROTH.
  4. Brew tea.  Place sesame butter in a large bowl, add hot tea, stir until emulsified, or smooth and creamy (see photo).  Blend in garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar; set aside.  (If chicken is finished cooking while you are preparing sauce, proceed to step 5, and then come back to sauce.)
  5. Bring broth-to which you have added 1 tsp of sesame oil-to a rapid boil over med/high heat in the stock pot.  Add pasta and turn down heat to medium (do not add salt, as this toughens the noodles).  Stirring occasionally, cook for approximately 6-7 minutes, or until al dente-slightly chewy.  Drain pasta and immediately submerge in cold water to stop cooking process, set aside.
  6. Cut chicken in bite-size pieces, add to sauce, and season with salt.  Toss together with pasta.
  7. Serve chilled.  Yum!