Thursday, June 20, 2013

everything it should be and nothing it should not

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I find it sort of incredible that my whole entire life has happened in at and around North America, specifically concentrated on the east coast and even more specifically mostly in Massachusetts; and then still, mostly on the south shore. And then I, Jess Benson formerly known as Jess Pithie formerly known as the Python formerly known as Porky Dickens and also currently known as Porky Dickens takes not one but TWO trips to Europe in the span of less than a month. Who brought Johnny Jet Setter to this cookout? Not me. No way.

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I’m actually kind of surprised I didn’t get flagged by US customs for being a suspected drug mule. They must have been able to spot my weak gag reflex and inability to lie from behind their desks so they didn’t even bother to get up. But anyways, I’m sorry for the absence last week, we were in Spain for our much anticipated and long awaited honeymoon. The trips were totally terrific and completely, opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum different and I have NO idea how I got this lucky to be able to have two such awesome travel experiences in such a short span of time, but please do not tell the people in charge, because they might come and take it all away!

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So I am back with a capital ‘B’ and I have been cooking at home quite a bit (read: broke). As always, I am prepared to share. What I’ve brought today is a terrific summer side dish. Yes, summer! Yay summer!! While we were gone it came! And since summer is the time of year where we wear less clothes but eat more hot dogs, I brought you something to serve along side (the hot dogs that is, not your unclothed body, weirdo). I love pasta salad but I’m often afraid of it because the pasta can be tragically overdone and the mayonnaise based dressing has usually been kicking it at room temp. for a while before I’ve gotten to it. So what I put together for my friend Michelle’s cookout a few weekends back was this: a rock solid delicious pasta salad packed with flavor from briny olives, sweet sun dried tomatoes, salty salami, delicious fresh herbs and veggies in a simple vinaigrette. It’s everything a pasta salad should be and nothing it should not.

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1 box rotini, penne or any other shape pasta
½ bag frozen peas
¼ lb. asparagus or green beans, trimmed into bite sized pieces
¾ cup sundried or slow roasted tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
½ cup diced dry aged salami
1 bunch basil leaves, washed, stemmed and torn 
1 bunch chives, minced
½ package feta cheese, crumbled
½ cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp. Dijon mustard
Pinch sugar

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Set a large pot to boil. While the water comes up to temperature, clean and prep vegetables and herbs. Both the frozen peas and asparagus can cook in the pasta water and all three can be drained at once. This is a really simple time saver that essentially helps this whole salad to come together in the time it takes to cook a box of pasta. Once the water is boiling salt well and add the pasta, set timer according to the package directions. When 4 or 5 minutes are left on your timer, add the asparagus (4) or the green beans (5); at the 2 minute mark, dump in the frozen peas. Test a piece of pasta for doneness and if it’s nicely al dente, drain the whole pot. It’s okay if the green beans/asparagus retain a bit of crunch, you just want them to be lightly blanched and not raw.

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In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the red wine vinegar, oil, Dijon and sugar. Season with salt and pepper, clamp the lid on and shake vigorously to emulsify. Set aside, shaking again before use as needed.

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Drain pasta and veggies together in a colander and set aside to cool for a few minutes. Dress the pasta and veggies while still warm (but not scorching hot) with about 1/3 of your prepared dressing. Toss well and let cool down to room temperature. Add all remaining ingredients, another generous drizzle of dressing and toss everything together gently with your hands. Taste and adjust seasonings/ dressing if necessary. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. This is delicious chilled or at room temperature so feel free to make it just before you head out to your cookout or picnic. Bring any extra dressing and add if it dries out at all.

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1 comment:

  1. Love this! this is the first time I have read your blog- cant wait to read future posts!Eileen


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