Ficoïde glaciale and soba noodles

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soba noodles with ficoide glaciale, peas, herbs

Ficoïde glaciale, or glacier lettuce (Mesembryanthemum crystallinum) is salty. This is not something you expect from a crispy green vegetable that didn’t come out of the ocean. But bite into one of the thick leaves, and the tiny bubbles that cover its surface burst open and hit your tongue with brine. This threw me for a loop until I stopped thinking of it as a salad green and started thinking of it as a plant-based alternative to bacon — a crunchy, salty, slightly decadent way to make nearly any dish more interesting.

If you can find ficoïde glaciale — check your farmer’s market or specialty produce store — consider this riff on spaghetti alla carbonara. Instead of the traditional pasta, I used warm soba noodles — the earthy buckwheat flavor balances out the salt nicely, and the slippery noodles made a great background for the crispy leaves. Like a cured meat or a sharp cheese, the glacier lettuce does double-duty as a seasoning, something to take into consideration when salting your other ingredients.

Ficoide glaciale

I had planned to add some green garlic stems, but they were all buried under the pea trellis, which is in the process of collapsing. Scallions were more accessible. I did at least manage to reach a few handfuls of plump pea pods, which went in as well. For those playing along at home, the peas are Taichung 13, from Kitazawa Seed Company. The variety is a favorite of mine, with shelling-style peas encased in sweet, edible pods — the best of both worlds. They’re delicious raw, but I gave these about 30 seconds in the hot pasta water, just to warm them up a little.

A quick visit to the herb garden found the vietnamese coriander and mint plants nicely recovered from their winter quietude and ready for another season of trying to take over the garden. I used a small handful of each, though you could absolutely use any combination of herbs you like. To add richness and a hit of acid, I drizzled the assembled plate with a bit of toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar; again, you could go with other dressings to suit your herb selections.

glacier lettuce, peas, and herbs on soba noodles

 

Ficoïde glaciale and soba noodles

Serves 4
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 8 minutes
Total time 28 minutes
Allergy Wheat
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Lunch, Main Dish
Region Asian

Ingredients

  • 1 packet soba noodles (for gluten-free, use 100% buckwheat noodles, NOT soba)
  • 1 bunch ficoïde glaciale (a.k.a. glacier lettuce, Mesembryanthemum crystallinum, ice plant)
  • 1 bag peas in pods (any kind with edible pods)
  • 1 bunch mint leaves (fresh)
  • 1 bunch vietnamese coriander (fresh (substitute cilantro or basil))
  • 3 stalks scallions
  • 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

Note

This is a very flexible recipe: I've given approximate amounts for 4 servings, but you can vary the proportion of greens to noodles according to your taste and number of people (and the amount of ficoïde glaciale you picked up before realizing you didn't know what to do with it and started googling for recipes).

I found it made an excellent meal on its own, but you could certainly serve it as an accompaniment to grilled, marinated meat or tofu. Leftovers are great warm or cold.

If you're wheat- or gluten-intolerant, bear in mind that most soba noodles — even if they are labeled "buckwheat" — are actually made from a mix of buckwheat and wheat flour. You can find 100% buckwheat noodles, or make them yourself: there's a promising-looking recipe here: http://www.thenourishinggourmet.com/2009/05/homemade-buckwheat-soba-noodles-gluten-free.html

Directions

Step 1
Prepare the soba noodles according to package directions.
Step 2
Meanwhile, wash the ficoïde glaciale and herbs. Chop or tear the ficoïde glaciale into bite-sized pieces. (The stems are edible.) Tear the leaves off the mint and vietnamese coriander, and throw away the stems. Cut the scallions into narrow pieces.
Step 3
Toss the noodles and peas with a generous drizzle of toasted sesame oil and a splash of rice wine vinegar, to taste. Do not add salt yet, as the ficoïde glaciale is quite salty.
Step 4
Toss in the prepared ficoïde glaciale, mint, vietnamese coriander, and scallions.
Step 5
Taste, and add more vinegar or salt if necessary.
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