This recipe came together as a result of the inventory control I’m practicing (trying to practice!) in my new kitchen.  Lack of cabinets and a smaller fridge make it tricky–they were pretty much full to bursting just with the collections of grains, spices, and condiments that I moved in with.  So when I felt like pesto, I wasn’t going to buy basil, not with the slightly wilted container of arugula in my fridge, and I wasn’t going to buy pine nuts when I had a good handful of walnuts left over from a Peruvian chicken dish (that was really good).  I ended up adding some parsley, too, and the other usual suspects: garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan.  Normally you might mix some Romano in too, but if your arugula (I get the wild/baby type) is as sharp as mine, you’ll want to skip it and stick with Parm to mellow it out a bit.  Just whizz it all together in the food processor, keep tasting, adding, seasoning.  You don’t have to do like me and inadvertently make a giant batch because you keep adding a little more of this and that and then have to add more of this.  But if you do, it will get eaten.

Especially if, like me, you’re out of pasta the next day and force yourself to use what you have to save space, and if what you have is a package of soba, Japanese buckwheat noodles.  I was a bit skeptical, but it turned out much better than with the pasta.  The flavors of the pesto and the soba mix in a really interesting way that’s more complex, and with a bit of chicken (from a leftover roasted chicken with two lemons that I’ve been eating from all week) and an optional crumble of Bulgarian sheep’s milk feta (from my visit to Halime at the Turkish market in the old neighborhood), it makes a very nutritious and satisfying go-to lunch.

A note on serving temperature.  Soba noodles should be rinsed after cooking, and they are often served cold.  Personally, I like this dish at about room temperature, and the pesto incorporates better if they’re warm, so I’ll rinse the noodles with warm water, return to the pot, mix in the other ingredients and let the cold pesto and chicken from the fridge cool down the noodles to lukewarm.

Now, you can substitute whatever you have in the house, experiment!  But if you replace the arugula with basil, the walnuts with pine nuts, and the soba with pasta, I’m afraid I can’t help you.

In other food news, I’ve joined a local CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) and I’ll be picking up my boxes of freshly picked, sustainably grown vegetables starting in June (and fruit, starting in July).  I really look forward to having a defined palette of seasonal ingredients to work from.  It’s like having constraints in graphic design (or any other creative job)–it can be very helpful to the process.

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