Last summer, I lived for a while with some wonderful folks with an amazing patio. You know, the kind that is level with the widest branches of the trees and suspends you above the rest of the city, filtered through the greenery? This location magically inspired food with lots of fresh vegetables. I ate a LOT of salad. Something about being outdoors inspires further freshness. But because raw veggies can only take you so far, I started finding ways to mix grains into my creations. The pasta salad of my youth was an egg-ridden, totally gross swamp of cholesterol, dodgy food standards and sodium. This variation couldn’t be further removed from that science experiment of a side dish.
This little pasta salad is easy-peasy, varied, and filling enough to be a meal in itself. It follows a simple formula, and the secret is in the sauce. No gross eggy-stuff required.
- Pick a cute little pasta. I like bowties. Things like shells tend to stick to each other too much. Macaroni is good, if you’re down with the retro-feel of the uniform elbows.
- Pick fresh, flavourful vegetables in four different colours. Colour is important to the appreciation of this dish. It symbolizes the variety and abundance of harvest times. I like crunchy veggies and ones that suck up sauces thirstily, like broccoli.
- Use good herbs. I use dried marjoram, thyme, and tarragon. And then fresh parsley and/or cilantro. The fresh parsley really contributes to the flavour of this dish, so try not to ditch it. Use the flat-leaf kind, it’s tastier and has a nicer texture.
- Infuse your olive oil. Take a good olive oil, and brown a whole lot of minced garlic in it. It will infuse the oil with garlic flavour, which will then distribute evenly through the pasta. If you want some kick, use dried chilis in your olive oil infusion. Go ahead and add some capers, sundried tomatoes, or marinated artichoke hearts for tang and depth. Stir in some nooch, dijon and almond flour enough to make a cream. Add lemon juice and cider or wine vinegar (yes, both) until it is thinned enough to just coat the back of a spoon. Toss liberally with your salad.
- I like fresh greens, such as rough chopped arugula, spinach or chard stirred in at the last minute. It makes it all feel fresher and brighter.
- Go ahead and add some beans. Chickpeas, small white beans and green lentils are nice.
This recipe makes me long for summer days and crisp, cool Rieslings sipped on the porch. Also, it pulls together in maybe 20 minutes. Can’t go wrong.