Saturday, July 28, 2018


I love Asian cold noodle salads—gingery, chile-flecked tofu with rice noodles or fish in peanut-coconut milk sauce and udon (wheat) noodles. They seem to cut through hot-weather stickiness.

While forking (or chopsticking) a cool noodle salad, I thought, why not try a Spanish-style noodle salad? Thus was invented cold Ensalada de Fideuá con Gambas—noodle-shrimp salad.

Big bowl of fideo noodle salad, with shrimp, squid (and a few mussels--I ate most of them the minute they were steamed).

Fideuá, or fideos, are vermicelli noodles. They come in various thicknesses, from fine angel’s hair to  those about the same thickness as spaghetti. They may be long strands, bundled into “nests,” or more usually, cut into short lengths, ready for adding to a pot of noodle soup. One variety has a pinhole through the pasta. They are perfect for making fideuá, a pasta-paella well-known in Catalonia and Valencia regions. That’s the inspiration for this salad. If you can’t get real fideos, use spaghetti broken into short lengths.

The Spanish technique for cooking pasta is to fry it first, then add sofrito and flavorful stock to finish the cooking.  That’s pretty much how I made the noodles for the salad, only, instead of making a sofrito, I added raw tomatoes and chopped peppers to the cooked noodles.

The shrimp stock is essential for flavoring the pasta. If you can’t get shrimp with heads and shells, try substituting other crustacean shells—lobster or crab, for example. Otherwise, use fish stock or clam broth. The recipe for shrimp stock (below) makes more than you need for the noodle salad, so, once cooled, freeze the remainder for another use (or, the next pasta salad).

The salad can be prepared in several easy stages—first the stock, then the cooking of shrimp and squid and, finally, finishing the salad.

Noodles cooked in shrimp stock are packed with flavor. 

Serve the noodle salad as a starter or main.

Garnish with olives and cherry tomatoes.

Shrimp and Fideo Noodle Salad
Ensalada de Fideuá con Gambas

Serves 4.

For the shrimp stock:

1 ½ pounds raw shrimp with heads and shells
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon pimentón (paprika), not smoked
1 cayenne chile (optional)
8 cups water
1 slice lemon
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vinegar
Bay leaf
Parsley stems

Shell the shrimp, reserving the bodies, refrigerated, for the salad. Heat the oil in a soup pot and add the heads and shells. Fry them 4 minutes. Lightly crush the garlic and add it, unpeeled to the pot. Stir in the pimentón and chile and immediately add the water. Add lemon slice, salt, vinegar, bay and parsley. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, partially covered, 20 minutes.

Let stock cool 5 minutes, then pour it through a strainer. Discard shrimp shells, chile, bay and parsley. Reserve the stock for cooking the fideo noodles

For the fideo noodle salad:

Water or shrimp stock
12 ounces peeled raw shrimp
1 medium squid, cleaned and body cut in rings
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups (1 pound) fideo noodles (not fine angel’s hair)
¼ cup finely chopped onions
Pinch of crushed saffron, optional
4 cups shrimp stock
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup brine from canned olives (optional)
½ cup grated raw tomato pulp
1 cup chopped green and red pepper
Pitted or stuffed olives, sliced, to garnish
Cherry tomatoes, to garnish
Sliced lemon, to serve
Salad greens, as desired

Bring a small pan of salted water or stock to a boil. (Use enough to just cover the shrimp.) Have ready a bowl of ice water. Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook them until they turn pink and curl slightly, 2 to 4 minutes. Drain the shrimp and plunge them into the ice water.

Add the pieces of squid to the boiling water just until they turn opaque, 20 seconds. Drain and add them to the ice water. Drain the shrimp and squid and refrigerate them, covered, until ready to incorporate in the noodle salad.

Toast the noodles with a little olive oil until golden-brown.
In a deep skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the fideo noodles and chopped onion and toast them, stirring, until the noodles begin to turn golden, about 4 minutes. Add the saffron, if using. Add 3 cups of the shrimp stock and cook the noodles on a medium-high heat until they begin to stick, 5 minutes.

Add remaining 1 cup of stock, lower the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until noodles are al dente, about 5 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat. Noodles will still be juicy, but not soupy. Cover and let them set 10 minutes.

Transfer the noodles to a bowl. Add lemon juice and olive brine, if using. Season with salt to taste. Stir in the tomato pulp. Add the chopped peppers and olives. (Save a few olives to garnish the salad.)

Immediately before serving, add the shrimp and squid to the noodles. Garnish the salad with olives, cherry tomatoes and sliced lemon. Serve with salad greens, if desired.

A recipe for fideuá is here.

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