Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Stir-fried eggs with buckwheat noodles and salad greens

Maverick Farms does not live by eggs alone, although readers can be excused for thinking so. Our new chickens have been such steady producers--five a day, everyday--and the product has been so delicious that's it's been impossible to resist eating eggs daily.

At around 2:00 pm yesterday, I needed a meal that balanced high-quality protein, complex carbohydrates, and fresh vegetables. I had just returned to the farm after spending the weekend at Community Food Security Coalition conference in Atlanta. Intellectually and spiritually, the conference provided rich sustenance. Culinarily, though--save for one pretty good dinner of barbecued ribs and collard greens--it amounted to a disaster.

The Community Food Security Coalition takes pains to point out that local food systems have collapsed, turning areas urban and rural alike into wastelands of soulless, health-wrecking institutional food. Anyone doubting its claims needed only step out of the conference's sky-scraping hotel and into Atalanta's midtown abyss. Not far from the hotel, a giant demonic Coca-Cola billboard broadcast trivia on the beloved local beverage. "How many different types of bottling containers does Coca-Cola use around the world?" the sign asked. "More than 100!" came the answer.

The same sort of degraded, fake diversity held sway in the midtown streets. Hungry conference goers could choose from McDonald's, ESPN--the Zone, Hooters, and the Hard Rock Cafe. Most opted to walk a few blocks to one of those inexplicable indoor urban malls, in whose "food court" one could find that post-modern food item par excellence, the "wrap."

Things weren't much better inside the hotel. Snacks tended to be sugary sweet rolls wrapped in plastic and industrial, placeless Red Delicious apples. Coffee, when available, came from Starbucks. Dismal.

The conference's content, though, was so interesting, and its schedule so packed, that it wasn't until the after it ended, on the way out of town, that we were able to escape midtown and head into Atlanta's neighborhoods for a good meal. We ended up, on a tip from Chowhound's South board, at a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant called C'om, which I heartily recommend to anyone in Atlanta.

First in the green-mango salad, then in the pork bun (grilled pork over rice noodles), I found sharp, precise flavors and crisp, fresh vegetables. Just the thing after a weekend of bland, bad food.

The next day, at the farmhouse, I craved something similar. Not something Vietnamese, per se; but something with clear sharp flavors and fresh vegetables, using whatever was close at hand. No one else was around the house as I began to forage in the kitchen. I found a basketful of fresh eggs, and in the pantry a package of buckwheat noodles. I decided to construct a lunch out of those two items, plus whatever I found in the garden.

From a flourishing patch of Tokyo bikuna, a spicy, tender, light-colored relative of mustard greens, I picked a few big leaves. Next to it a patch of arugula was just finding its legs, not quite ready for harvest. I poached a few of the bigger leaves. A few yards away a patch of Persian cress had come into its own. With this peppery, bright, slightly funky green I filled out my salad. On the way back I spied patch of cilantro. I snipped a handful.

And here is what I did.

Stir-fried eggs with buckwheat noodles and salad greens
Large handfull of salad greens
Cilantro, to taste
1 small onion
1 clove garlic
1 dried red chile pepper, chopped
1 small knob of fresh ginger
oil, for sauteeing
2 eggs
I serving soba noodles
Soy sauce
Rice wine vinegar (Japanese if possible)
Chile-flavored sesame oil

Put water on to boil for for noodles. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and whisk until yolks and whites are just combined. Set beside the range-top. Clean salad greens and set aside on a serving plate. Clean cilantro, chop it coarsely, and set it by range-top. Peel and halve the onion lengthwise, and then slice each half thin. Add it to a cast-iron skillet over medium heat with a little cooking oil; stir and let sizzle. Meanwhile, crush garlic with flat end of knife, and peel, and lay it on a cutting board. Trim the chile of its stem, and chop it coarsely, and place on top of crushed garlic. Peel the ginger with the side of a spoon, chop it coarsely, and place it on the pile with the garlic and chile. Using a rocking motion, chop the the three aromatics together until fine. Give the onions a stir; if they're pretty well-cooked and starting to color a bit, turn the heat to the lowest setting and add the aromatics. Stir and let sizzle lightly.

Now your water is probably boiling. Add the noodles, stirring them into the water. They'll be done in 4-6 minutes. Be careful that the aromatics don't burn; if they are about to, remove them from heat. Just before the noodles are done, return the skillet to medium heat. Drain the cooked noodles and add them to the sizzling hot-pan. Stir. Add the beaten eggs. Stir until scrambled. Add condiments--soy sauce (or tamari), rice vinegar, and sesame oil to taste. Add chopped cilantro. Stir to incorporate. Place noodle-egg stirfry directly over the undressed salad. The heat will wilt the salad, and the greens will absorb the flavors of the aromatics and condiments. Mix it all together with chopsticks, taste and correct for seasoning, and enjoy.