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This herby sesame sauce is great on noodles or straight from the spoon

(Rey Lopez for The Washington Post; food styling by Nicola Justine Davis for The Washington Post)

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The other day I went to a dinner party, and the topic of Los Angeles came up. That’s when I realized it’s been a full decade since I lived in L.A.; I moved back East in 2013. I cherish my time in that city, when I felt young and frisky, especially enthusiastic and ambitious, more optimistic — or maybe just more naive.

After growing up in Chicago and spending my early 20s in New York City, I moved to Los Angeles in 2006 and encountered what felt like another planet. It took me awhile to settle into the city’s rhythms and to embrace its unique perspectives, but once I did, I grew to love it: long drives, local produce, taco trucks, mountain hikes, Hollywood gloss, beach days, surfer lingo and even — even! — the green juice. In fact, it’s the verdant vibes of green juice, that now-ubiquitous Southern California staple of blended or juiced green vegetables and herbs, that inspired this recipe for Green Sesame Soba Noodles.

It started as a bowl of soba noodles dressed with sesame oil that I made for lunch one day. The next day, I mixed a sauce of sesame paste, lime juice and sliced scallions. At the last moment, I topped it with a pile of spinach and cilantro. As I ate it, I realized that the toppings might be even better if I put them in a blender. When I tried it, I ended up with a rough green-juice-tahini-sauce mash-up. It was pretty good, but something was missing.

I added soy sauce and garlic to perk things up. That worked, but something was still off. It wasn’t until one of my editors, Olga Massov, suggested I try adding a touch of sweetness that the sauce’s flavor clicked into place. A spoonful of maple syrup smoothed out the harsh taste of the garlic and scallions, softened the grassy cilantro, and enhanced the spinach’s natural sweetness.

Drizzled over freshly cooked soba, it made a sesame noodle bowl that sings of spring. Perhaps the best compliment came when food stylist Nicola Davis made it. After one taste she pulled me aside and gushed: “I could eat this straight off a spoon — never mind the noodles!”

While the sauce is great over soba, it works just as well as a salad dressing or a sauce for seared or roasted chicken or fish. Swirl it into plain yogurt for a simple snack, or drizzle it over roasted carrots or sweet potatoes for a side dish. Think of it as a workhorse, a real green machine.

Get the recipe: Green Sesame Soba Noodles