wide rice noodles with Birjandi cucumber and pistachio sauce

by Stevie on March 19, 2010

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The more that I delve into Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey, the more that I become fascinated. I’ve been focusing on some of the rice and grain dishes over the past few weeks, like Susa Polow with lentils, currants and dates; Fertile Crescent bulgar and mung bean pilaf; and Georgian pilaf with tart cherries.

wide rice noodles with Birjandi cucumber and pistachio sauce

The book is filled with lots of other foods besides rice. There are numerous exciting breads, vegetable dishes and pasta sauces. I’ve been enchanted with all things noodle since childhood. Growing up, though, we’d usually have Italian style sauces with semolina pasta or Chinese noodle dishes with Chinese style noodles. Najmieh Batmanglij turns that old fashioned model on its head, suggesting that any sauce can go on any kind of noodle. To me, this idea comes as a revelation! “Silk Road Cooking” has recipes for tried-and-true Italian style tomato or mushroom and cream sauce but boldly suggests that they can be served over rice stick, cellophane (mung bean) or Thai noodles. I wouldn’t find that in my mother’s kitchen: or, until I read this amazing book, in my own. I realize that I’ve gotten too rigid about pasta. Well, change is good.

As an aside, did you know that Najmieh Batmanglij’s son, Rostam Batmanglij, is in the band, Vampire Weekend? There was a flattering interview of Rostam and some fellow band-mates in the Feburary 4th Rolling Stone on the eve of their new album, Contra. The article even refers to Najmieh’s cookbooks. Cool! I like Vampire Weekend and have both of their albums but never made the connection until the magazine review. They’re a talented family! Who knew?

But back to creativity in the kitchen!

Last week, I was inspired by Najmieh’s Birjandi cucumber and pistachio sauce. It vaguely reminded me of a variation of pesto. But this one has no garlic, no olive oil, no cheese and no lemon juice. She says that the recipe has been adapted from a soup into a sauce. She got the idea from “the Sepehri family” in Birjand, an ancient caravan town surrounded by desert. Do you think that the Sepehri’s are family friends?

Since you can pick any noodle, I settled on a package of Asian wide rice noodles that had been sitting around the kitchen for a while. I’d wanted to use spaghetti or linguini because the recipe seemed to call for that in my mind, but I forced myself to do something different. The noodles went perfectly with the sauce.
The recipe calls for fresh tarragon which I couldn’t find anywhere. And much to my surprise, I didn’t have any dry at home either. I ended up using a Provencal herb mix that includes tarragon. I’m going to make the sauce again once the fresh is available.

some key ingredients for wide rice noodles with Birjandi cucumber and pistachio sauce

The finished dish was very aromatic and flavorful. I always worry that fresh mint will overpower everything else, but that didn’t happen here. We loved it.

be creative with noodle selections

Wide Rice Noodles with Birjandi Cucumber and Pistachio Sauce

1 cup shelled pistachios, rinsed
1 cup shelled walnuts, rinsed
½ cup fresh basil leaves
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp dry Provencal herb mix (the original recipe calls for ¼ cup fresh tarragon)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup boiling water
1 pita bread, toasted
1 seedless cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 package noodles of your choice!

Prepare noodles per package directions.

While noodles are cooking, toast pita bread. I don’t have a toaster so used my broiler. Of course I was talking on the telephone when I was toasting the pita so it burned completely. Fortunately I had another pita as a spare.

i love using the food processor!

Put all ingredients except cucumber into a food processor and process until a paste. Adjust flavors.

I didn’t have seedless cucumbers so cut out the seeds with a spoon after peeling them.

Toss sauce, cucumber and pasta together in a serving dish and enjoy.

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