Brown Rice Noodles with Cilantro Pesto & Wintery Greens

March 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

If I were cast away to a deserted island and had to choose two foods (heaven forbid) to consume until the rescue mission, I think I’d eat my mom’s sourdough beer bread and pesto for the rest of my days.  Today, I’m going to talk about the later.

Typically my mom whips up gigantic, 9 cup batches of basil pesto a few times each summer, harvested straight from the prolific plants we tend in the backyard.  We recently planted this year’s spring garden — (take a peek at our garden overhaul) — and our basil plants are spindly and puny.  We’re about a month away from our first summer harvest and winter’s stockpile of frozen pestos has reached a distressingly low count.  I’ve been craving the taste of olive oil and herbs, Parmesan cheese and garlic and last week, my mom reminded me of an old favorite — a pesto we used to make so often it rivaled basil pesto.  Bring in a new herb: CILANTRO!  (I’m so sorry if you’re a cilantro-hater.  If you are, try parsley!)

Cilantro pesto is finger-lickin’ good.  As a matter of fact, I ate a couple finger-fulls of cilantro pesto, right out of the food processor before I took this photograph.  But when you marry this green, speckled slurry with noodles, tender winter greens and a handful of heirloom tomatoes (or if you live in a frostier neck of the woods and can’t find tomatoes locally — skip them for now), this dish is downright delicious.  Feel free to use any kind of pasta you like.  Lately I’ve been cooking with brown rice noodles (gluten-free and they taste just like whole wheat pasta), so that’s what I suggested on the ingredient list below.

Ingredients for Pasta Salad:
5 cups brown rice noodles, dry
pasta cooking water
6 cups winter greens (arugula, rainbow chard, spinach, etc.)
1/2 cup baby onion/scallion, chopped
1 cup heirloom cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup cilantro pesto (recipe below)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Ingredients for Cilantro Pesto:
1 bunch cilantro
1-2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
3-4 tablespoons olive oil


1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil on the stove.  Reduce heat to a simmer, salt the water and add pasta and cook according to instructions.

2.  Meanwhile, combine all pesto ingredients, minus the olive oil, in a blender or food processor.  Blend until finely chopped.  Slowly add olive oil and continue blending.  Taste and add additional olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

3.  In a large skillet, saute scallion/baby onion until wilted and slightly brown (about 7 minutes).  Add winter greens, reduce the heat to medium-low and put a lid on top of the pot.  Steam until bright green and wilted, about 4 minutes.  Remove lid.  Add cherry tomatoes and cook until heated through (1-2 minutes).  Remove from heat.

4.  When pasta has finished cooking, using a slotted spoon, scoop pasta into the sauteed vegetables, reserving the pasta water.  Add cilantro pesto to the pasta and stir, adding a ladle of pasta water to the dish as necessary to create a light sauce.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese.  Eat warm or at room temperature.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free


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