Soba noodles with arugula pecan pesto and sauteed brussels sprouts and castelvetrano olives

Soba noodles with arugula-pecan pesto and sauteed brussels sprouts

Soba noodles with arugula-pecan pesto and sauteed brussels sprouts

Malcolm’s teachers talk about making “smart choices.” It’s something he needs to work on. Because I’m a terrible parent, the phrase seems to have lodged itself in my head as something almost funny, and I find myself using it in less-than-serious situations. I had to have a talk with Clio because she doesn’t make smart choices in the throes of separation anxiety, and she’s become a danger to herself and our furniture. (I’d like to state for the record, before I continue, that I agree with his teachers that “making smart choices” is something Malcolm needs to work on (as do we all!), and I respect their efforts to remind him of that!) I worry a little bit for him, because he’s my son, and I have a lifelong history of crippling indecision and poor choices. Why would a person drop out of Oxford a third of the way through? Why would a person apply to film school, get in, and then not go? Why would a person waste time and money on a second independent feature when the first was a big failure? Why would they do it? Although on paper it may seem that I have made dumb choices, I have no regrets. I think it’s impossible to harbor regrets once you’ve had children, because every single decision that you ever made your entire life–massive or minute, important or seemingly inconsequential–resulted in their creation. It boggles my easily boggled mind! It makes a person think about fate! I believe in fate in the sense that it’s the same thing as history looked at from the other end. Once something has happened, it was obviously meant to happen and it becomes part of the pattern that connects one life to every other life on the planet, as we all move inexorably in the same direction. But I also believe that we control our fate, at least in part, by the smart and dumb choices that we make. And we determine the quality of our lives, as we’re swept along on our fateful journey, by these choices as well. I’m fascinated by the word “fate,” which is closely related to the word “faith,” and to the words “fay” and “fey.” I’m comfortable with the idea that whatever we think about fate, generally, and our own fate, specifically, we have to understand that we’ll never fully understand it, and we have to accept that we’re frequently powerless to control it, as it rolls ceaselessly over us. I also believe that what may seem like a dumb choice if you’re looking at your life from a certain angle at a certain time, might seem like the smartest possible choice looked at any other way. (Hence the lifetime of indecision!) Although small choices have always rendered me a useless mass of anxiety, as I look back on my life I realize that the big choices, like being with David, were simple. There was only one option, only one wise choice. That feels like fate! That gives me faith! And I have faith that Malcolm will make good choices. They might not always be smart and practical choices, but they’ll be brave choices, and (hopefully) kind choices.

Soba with pesto, brussels sprouts and castelvetrano olives

Soba with pesto, brussels sprouts and castelvetrano olives

Malcolm loves soba noodles. He gets very excited about them. He likes them plain, with tamari, so that’s how we most frequently eat them. This week, I decided to augment their sweetly savory nuttiness with a pesto made from pecans and nutty arugula. I added some smoked gouda, because I thought that would be nice, too. And it was! The pesto also has a bit of sage and honey, to balance the sharp strong flavors. Brussels sprouts and castelvetrano olives are pretty together. They’re so GREEN! And this pesto was very GREEN! This whole meal had a solid-earthy-wintery-melting-into-summmery flavor. If you know what I mean.

Here’s Once in a Lifetime by The Talking Heads, because it seems to fit!

2 small bundles soba, boiled in salted water until al dente.

1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 clove garlic, roasted or toasted
1/3 cup olive oil
1 t balsamic
1 T honey
2 cups arugula, roughly chopped
1 t sage (dried) or 4 or 5 fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup smoked gouda, grated
salt and plenty of pepper
1/2 cup (+/-) water

In a blender or food processor combine the pecans and garlic. Process until ground and crumbly. Add everything else except the water and process until smooth. Add the water, a bit at a time, until the pesto is perfectly green and smooth and just as thick as you like it.

1 T olive oil
1 t red pepper flakes
1 cup brussels sprouts
1/2 cup castelvetrano olives, pitted and cut in half
2 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped

Pull any browned or torn outside leaves from the sprouts. Trim the stem end, if it’s thick or dry. Slice the sprout lengthwise in quarters, with the leaves still attached to the stem. Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the pepper flakes. Add the brussels sprouts and sautee until they start to brown on the outside, and are bright and tender crisp. Add the olives, stir and fry. Add the tomatoes and a few spoonfuls of water, and cook for a few minutes until they just start to soften.

Toss the soba with the pesto and top with the sauteed veg.


4 thoughts on “Soba noodles with arugula pecan pesto and sauteed brussels sprouts and castelvetrano olives

  1. Claire: I’ve got to question some of these statements and I should say that I don’t buy the concept of ‘fate’.
    “Once something has happened, it was obviously meant to happen”
    1. Let’s think about Hitler. He happened and as a result so did WW2.

    “we control our fate, at least in part, by the smart and dumb choices that we make ”

    2. What about those people in the Warsaw Ghetto, or those in Leningrad? They had no choice over their fate, most of them were murdered. I don’t think I’m using the word fate here in the same manner as you.

    3. I’m not sure about that telescope theory but it doesn’t sound right.

    • I’m not sure what you mean by “telescope theory,” GF. And good heavens! Hitler and WWII! Big subjects to tackle. I’m not sure I understand your comment, because it seems as though you’re not accepting the concept of fate, and you’re also not accepting the idea that our choices make any difference! (I would happily agree with you on both those things, because it IS so vague and complex and inexplicable, I’m just not sure I’m understanding what you’re saying.)

      The way I see it, well…it’s very complicated, maybe I’ll talk about it again tomorrow, if I can’t think of anything else to write about. But the way I see it history is like a tapestry, and we’re all madly weaving away at our little portion of it, and making some sort of pattern that makes sense sometimes and makes less sense others. Sometimes we start out in wrong directions, sometimes we make mistakes, sometimes we can fix them and cover it up or make a new pattern, sometimes not. So Hitler is the result of an infinite number of choices that his ancestors made, for centuries and centuries, down to his mother and father. Every single tiny choice they made every day of their lives resulted in Adolph Hitler’s existence, and not one of them could have had any idea how that would turn out. They were weaving a pattern in their portion of the tapestry, and when we look at it from miles above the fabric, and many years on in history, we see the pattern and the tragedy of it, but at the time, even after Hitler’s rise to power and the millions of people that made stupid, scared, even evil choices to follow him or not question him, even after that, they might not have seen the pattern that was forming, so close in it, as they were, so busy making it as time flew by them. And so concerned with the millions of other choices in their day-to-day lives that distracted them from the bigger picture, as we see it so clearly now.

      It’s very complicated, isn’t it?

  2. Claire: My mistake on the telescope theory, I interpreted your comment ‘history looked at from the other end’ as in looking through a telescope and I couldn’t understand it. Re. both of the other comments I don’t know how I could say it more clearly and I did state that I don’t believe in ‘fate’ as you used the word. I’m currently reading Harrison Salisbury’s ‘The 900 day Siege of Leningrad’, that might have affected my response. Re. choices, the million and a half who died in Leningrad didn’t have any choices, they were surrounded and starved to death in 30 below temperatures; no choice.

    • Right, GF, I don’t really think I was saying that they did have choices to change that situation. They were all part of millions of choices made up until that point. So I agree with you !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s