The more experienced I become with cooking, the less reliant I tend to be on specific recipe ingredients, amounts and measurements. "Winging it" doesn't usually result in miserable disasters anymore, and I've got a good idea in my head for what works and what doesn't. With knowledge comes freedom (and responsibility, but that's a given, right?), and this last year I feel like I've been getting into a groove with it all.
Pasta salad, like many meals, is meant to be done improv-style. That's why this recipe is more of an outline than an actual recipe, because it's in experimenting where all the knowledge is hiding, waiting to be discovered. I'm just here to offer up suggestions and guidelines to help you avoid miserable disasters - though those can be the best learning experiences of all.
Your Basic Pasta Salad
Serves 4-6 as a side
3 cups uncooked pasta, like fusilli, macaroni or small shells
1 1/2 cups cooked beans or 1 can (chickpeas or kidney beans work well)
3-4 cups assorted small-cut vegetables, such as broccoli, cucumber, bell pepper, tomatoes, etc.
1/4 cup fresh herbs (parsley, basil, thyme or a mixture)
Sliced olives (optional)
For the dressing:
3 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
1. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse well with cold water, and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, beans, vegetables, herbs and optional olives and stir to combine. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Alternately, you can blend the dressing up in a mini-blender if you've got one. Add the dressing to the pasta salad bowl, stir well, and refrigerate at least an hour.
I think one of the reasons that pasta salad makes such good picnic fare is that it tastes great at room temperature - I almost prefer it that way to the chilled, fresh-from-the-fridge kind.
See those sprouts hanging out on my kale? Those are totally fresh, homegrown and much-loved red clover sprouts! Logan and I have forayed into kitchen gardening and it's so simple that I wonder why we didn't brave this territory before. And they're oodles more fresh, bright and crisp than the store-bought kind!
In other news, have you heard the thing about Daiya? The thing where they have new products coming out? Oh hell yeah. You've gotta check this out.