gastronome
pasta salad

Once upon a time, I didn't care for pasta salad. Either it was mushy, or it was mayonaissey. Ick on both fronts. Then the nice folks at Cook's Illustrated tipped me onto the idea of using lemon juice for the acid component in a pasta salad. It's great! I love the tang of lemon, and it doesn't dissolve the pasta into mush the way vinegar does. Here's my master recipe - which launches from the Cook's Illustrated article. (You'll probably need a subscription to view the page; if you want a copy of the original article, let me know and I'll email you one!) I've included two variations I served at a picnic on Friday.

1 lb of dried pasta (orichiette is my favorite)
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, including the pulp
1-2 tsp lemon zest, chopped finely (or use your smallest microplane grater)
1/2 cup of oil (I usually use a good extra-virgin olive oil. Now's the time to use the precious really-good artisinal stuff; you can really taste it. You can definitely vary this, though.)
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
crushed red pepper or freshly ground pepper, depending on your additions
sea salt (again, a good time to pull out the precious good stuff)
a handful of fresh herbs, chopped or torn
3-4 cups of veggies and things

0. Prep your additions. Grill your veggies and meat, roast your peppers, crumble the cheese, tear your herbs. You get the idea.
1. Boil your pasta. Stop when it's al dente; drain. Put it in a big bowl.
2. While the pasta is cooking, whisk the lemon juice, garlic, oil, salt & pepper together.
3. While the pasta is still hot, add the veggies and meats, and pour the dressing over the top. Toss. Put aside to cool.
4. When the pasta salad has cooled to room temperature, add any cheese. (Don't do it while hot, or your cheese will melt.)

Serve! It will last a few days in the fridge. (This will serve 6-8 hungry people, with a salad.)

Summer veggies
2 bunches of asparagus
3-4 red, orange, and/or yellow peppers
2 lbs of bacon
8 oz mild feta cheese
chives

asparagus
1. Snap the tough ends from the asparagus. Brush with grilling oil (peanut or olive), and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Grill over high heat. Remove while they still have a little crunch to them, and slice into 3/4" pieces on the bias.

peppers
1. Rub peppers in a touch of grilling oil, and grill over high heat. Let the skin just start to blacken. (Alternately, you can roast them at 500 F, broil them quickly, or roast them over a gas burner.)
2. Immediately put the peppers in a paper bag, roll down the top, and let them sit for 5-10 minutes. (This will help steam the skins loose.)
3. Rinse with cool water, and pull off the skin. Open up the peppers, and remove the membranes and seeds.
4. Chop into 3/4" squares. (About the right size to let a piece of pepper fit in the dimple in an orichiette.)

everything else
1. Cook the bacon until crispy. Drain, cool, and roughly chop.
2. Snip the chives into a million tiny chive pieces.
3. Crumble the feta into a bowl.

Prepare pasta and dressing as above. (Be generous with the black pepper with this salad.) Toss in the asparagus, bacon, and peppers with the dressing. Add the feta after the salad has cooled. Adjust salt & pepper.

Crazy Asian Fusion Pasta Salad
2-3 cups Chinese Dry SauteÚd Green Beans
1.5 lbs shrimp
2-3 tbsp Chinese 5-spice
1-2 tbsp cumin
peanut oil
toasted sesame oil
Hot chile paste or oil
Black sesame seeds

1. Prepare your green beans. (Something like this should work nicely, or order extras when you get Chinese food the night before.
2. Shell & clean the shrimp. Add a few teaspoons of peanut oil to the bowl, the 5-spice, and the cumin. Toss well. Each shimp should be pretty well covered in spices.
3. Grill the shrimp until done. (1-2 minuets a side). Pull them off the grill, let cool, and cut them into small pieces (halves or quarters, depending on the size of the shrimp. You want the pieces to just fit inside the bowl of an an orichiette.)
4. When you make the dressing, use the following oils:
-- 1/4 cup mild olive oil
-- 1/4 cup peanut oil
-- a few tablespoons of toasted sesame oil
-- a tablespoon of hot chile oil/paste. (Less if you know yours is very potent.)

5. Toss all ingredients with the hot pasta & dressing, and sprinkle the top with black sesame seeds. Let cool to room temp, and serve!

Posted by shock on September 04, 2004 | TrackBack
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