Thursday, August 28, 2014

Easy Summer Recipe Part 1: Pasta Salad

Pasta Salad was the first thing that came to mind when I thought about what to make as side dish for a barbecue last week. I always look for something stronger in flavor to beat the hot and humid summer days so I think a tapenade dressing - with olives, capers and anchovies - would be ideal. It can be prepared from start to finish within 30 minutes if you push it, and is certainly a crowd pleaser with the appetizing bold flavors.

Recipe: Mediterranean Style Pasta Salad  (serves 8-10 as appetizers)

Ingredients:

1 16oz packet dry pasta - technically anything works, but I usually went for short pasta, for example fusilli like I used this time, or penne.
1-2 carrots - julienned or sliced
1-2 medium-sized cucumbers (or 3 mini ones) - julienned or sliced
250g fresh cherry tomatoes - halved (can substitute with canned one)
300g pitted green olives (1 regular can or 1 cup) - whole or halved
1 tablespoon of capers - drained and rinsed

Tapenade Dressing
150g of olives (around 1/2 cup)
3-4 fillet of anchovies
2 tablespoon of capers
150ml of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Juice from 1/2 lemon

Pickle Marinate
1 cup/250ml of white wine vinegar (may substitute with cyder vinegar)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoon of sugar

Salt and Pepper to taste

Procedures:

To prepare the pickled carrots and cucumbers: (can make ahead and left in refrigerator for up to 2 days)
1. Combine the ingredients for the pickle marinate and warm up in a small pan until sugar completely dissolved.
2. Let cool, pour the liquid into a bowl and put carrots and cucumbers in the liquid. Set aside.

To prepare the tapenade dressing: (can make ahead)
1. Combine all ingredients, pulse using a stick blender until the mixture turned into a smooth paste. Add more olive oil if you prefer.

To assemble:
1. Cook pasta according to the cooking time as marked on the packet. Drain, rinse under cold water until pasta completely cooled down. Drain well and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Drizzle in olive oil to ensure they won't stick together.
2. Place tapenade dressing into the pasta. Toss to combine.
3. Remove carrots and cucumbers from the pickle juice. Rinse under cold water and drain well.
4. If olives were previously preserved in salt water, rinse and drain.
5. Put carrots, cucumbers, olives, capers and tomatoes into the mixing bowl. Toss to combine with the pasta. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil right before serving.

Feel free to add more ingredients if you so wish to add more complexity in taste and textures - grilled asparagus, bell peppers, chilis, pine nuts, croutons, shrimps, smoked salmon, or shaved Parmesan cheese... possibilities are limitless! 

It's best to assemble the salad on the day of serving - just keep it in the refrigerator for 3-4 hours to cool and let the flavors infused, or serve right away. So next time if you go to a potluck dinner, you don't have the excuse of saying you don't have time nor space to cook!

This is part of the Easy Summer Recipe series where I shared a few recipes for summer parties that could be prepared in less than 30 minutes. Check out the rest of the series:
Part 2: Southern-style Cornbread
Part 3: Cold-brewed Tea 
Part 4: Pear and Walnut Salad

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