The Nonplanner

There are those who make a meal plan at the beginning of each week; make a grocery list for those specific dishes and then proceed through the week accordingly. It works for many, gives structure, reduces stress (for some) and has a certain order.

Soba noodles, bok choi, cilantro and sesame seeds–most of what I need to make this last minute dish.

I’m decidedly not in this camp. I couldn’t begin to tell you what I might make five days from now. As you can tell from this blog, I’m the last-minute gal. I shop to restock my kitchen, not for specific recipes (with a few exceptions). And sometimes, like today, it’s a bunch of bok choi that was gorgeous at the farmers market on Saturday but is already looking a little worse for wear and two handfuls of cilantro that will be slimy by tomorrow that inspired tonight’s dinner. I have soba noodles and sesame seeds in the pantry and those are the other key ingredients for this cold soba salad. It’s a flavorful, good spring salad and with a couple of fried eggs on the side or a frittata will make a fine, light supper.

And I should note that I do some planning, though in a very different, general/ad hoc sort of way.  I cook extra beans and grains to freeze for later use, have veggie bouillon in the freezer, and sometimes have a few hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. And that, along with a well-stocked pantry serves me well since I usually enjoy the last-minute  game of deciding how to use those veggies about to go south or that beautiful bunch of asparagus or  the couscous my son loves. . . . And another note on the pantry and being stocked. It’s lovely having things like sesame seeds on hand, that after a quick toast in a dry pan, add a lot of flavor and texture to many dishes. Much like my last post about herbs, something as simple as a handful of sesame seeds can drive my decision about what to make for dinner. It doesn’t always have to start with the protein or starch or even veggie. Any key element of a dish can be the inspiration.

Cold soba noodle salad with bok choi and sesame seeds

Asian Noodle Salad with Toasted Sesame Dressing

– Adapted from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair

1 (8-ounce) package soba noodles (or whole wheat spaghetti – Barilla is a brand for this)

¼ cup sesame seeds

¼ cup chopped cilantro

1 bunch bok choi, young mustard greens, chard or most any other green washed and cut into ½ inch ribbons

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

3 tablespoons tamari (or regular soy sauce)

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey

pinch or two of chili flakes (or more depending on your taste)

Cook soba noodles according to package directions. About 3 minutes before the noodles are done add the chopped greens to the noodles, bring back to a boil and cook for a few more minutes. Drain and rinse noodles and greens in colander.

Toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Keep seeds moving until they give off aroma, pop, and begin to brown. This just takes 3-4 minutes. Remove and set aside. They burn easily so watch carefully.

Mix dressing ingredients in large bowl, add noodles, greens and cilantro. Mix well.

You can also add grated carrot, scallions, or choose to cook a different vegetable with the noodles such as broccoli, green beans, peas, etc.

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