Monthly Archives: July 2013

07/30/13

Cool, cool, cool Pasta Salads

I love fresh and easy summertime pasta salads. I like them with a glass of cold sweet tea and some fresh fruit any night of the week.

Pasta salads are one of the most versatile weeknight meals because there is no limit to what you can add to it. It’s a blank slate! Let your imagination run wild!

And these are 2 of my favorites!

Green & White Pasta Salad

A gorgeous and health-full veggie pasta salad dish. Trust me on the measurements of both thyme and lemon zest… it may seem like a lot, but it adds to the complexity of this pasta dish. So yummy!

 Ingredients:

  • Half a pound of short, dried pasta like Rotini, Corkscrews, Elbows, or Penne
  • 1 cup haricot verts, washed and trimmed (about 4 oz)
  • 1/3 cup roasted and salted shelled pistachios
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh Thyme, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon minced shallots
  • 2 Tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 5 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-2 oz freshly shaved parmesan cheese, about 1/3 cup or so

Directions:

1. Combine 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon lemon rind, shallots, Champagne or white wine vinegar, and smashed garlic in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Gradually add olive oil, stirring constantly with a whisk. Add salt and black pepper; stir with a whisk. Set aside so all those flavors can marry and the flavor of the garlic can get into the dressing.

2. Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Add haricots verts during the final 2 minutes of cooking. Drain pasta mixture, set aside.

3. Place the pasta mixture, pistachios, 1 tablespoon thyme, and 1 tablespoon lemon rind in a large bowl; toss gently to combine. So fragrant!

4. Drizzle dressing over pasta mixture, and toss gently to coat. Top the whole thing off with generous shavings of Parmesan cheese. Yum!

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 * recipe from Cooking Light Magazine

 

Greek-inspired Antipasto Pasta Salad

This salad is all my favorite things from an antipasto platter combined with tangy dressing and yummy pasta. An absolute perfect summer dinner! And the best news is, I sort of made it up as I went along, so you can too!

Don’t like something I added? Leave it out.

Think I left out a key ingredient? Add it!

Ingredients:

for the Red Wine Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crushed between your fingers to release oils
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

for the Salad:

  • 1 pound short pasta (Fusilli, Farfalle, Penne or other variety. I used Orzo for this.)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup hard salami, diced (about 2-3 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
  • 1/2 cup (about 4 oz) crumbled feta cheese
  • 3-4 tablespoons Kalamata olives, halved and pitted
  • 1 small cucumber, seeds removed and cut into small half-moons

***Some other suggested additions: halved grape or cherry tomatoes, rinsed and drained red kidney beans or even garbanzo beans, drain a can of artichoke hearts and give them a rough chop, or even toss in some cooked and cooled pancetta cubes if you don’t like salami.

Directions:

1. For the Vinaigrette: Make this easy on yourself… In a food processor, add all the ingredients up to the olive oil and blend until fully combined. Then, with the maching running, drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing is smooth. This will ensure that everything is emulsified and doesn’t seperate on you.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta and set aside in a large bowl. Toss the pasta with remaining salad ingredients once cooled a little, but all the flavors get into the pasta better if still warm.

3. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss to coat. Serve slightly warm, at room temperature, or chilled. Your choice.

Have leftover dressing? No problem. This dressing is absolutely delicious as a marinade for grilled meats, as a dressing for veggie salads, or for a nice tossed green salad. Waste not, want not!

Delicioso!

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I don’t know anyone who would turn either one of these down. Do you? Just test my theory would you? I know each of these will garner rave reviews for you too!

Happy easy, cool, summertime cooking!

xoxo

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07/25/13

Easiest of Easy Summer Entertaining

2 words.

2 simple, simple words.

Fruit. Platters.

Is there anything sweeter in the summer than gorgeous sweet berries, delicious ripe melons, and platters dripping in sunny preserves and sticky honey? Some things simple scream summer, and this certain does just that. They are ideal for no-stress, no-fuss, summer entertaining.

Ideas for simple Fruit and Cheese Platters:

  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries… all at season’s peak!)
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • chutneys, preserves
  • honey
  • pita chips
  • pretzel crisps
  • crostini
  • toasted nuts

Here are some examples:

They range from the simple.

Looks like a pretty good dinner for one if you ask me…

*photo from Food Network

 

To the beautifully elegant. This is so clean and neat looking; everything in its place. And there is plenty of room on the board for all your guests to partake.

* from a Beautiful Mess food blog

 

To a bit more exotic, a bit more summery and tropical.

And the platter is simply decorated with leaves. Love the natural wood peaking through too!

See… there are no hard and fast rules here.

*photo from Betty Crocker

 

Cheese platters are perfect for a welcome table at a social gathering. Very few things says “Welcome to my home” quite like a fruit and cheese platter if you ask me.

“Don’t mind if I do… I feel at home already…” 🙂

*from MGParty Impressions website

 

And then there is the truly ellaborate platter that will feed everyone at the party and keep the conversation going all night long.

Just glorious!

So. I get it.

It can be overwhelming standing over that beautiful imported cheese case at the grocery store. So, pick cheeses you love and that your guests will enjoy.  A good rule of thumb is to choose one cheese made from each type of milk: Cow, Goat, Sheep.  Then think about textures: firm like aged cheddar or gouda, creamy and smooth like goat cheese or Chevre, or sharp and grateable like Asiago or Parmesan. Make this fun! Express your personality in your cheese selection!

Then choose fruits, nuts, crackers, and other accompaniments that enhance the cheeses, not overpowering the flavors.

A couple of things to remember:

  1. Always serve cheese at room temperature. This can be done very simply. Take cheeses out of fridge one hour before assembling the platter.
  2. If serving before dinner, serve the fruit and cheese with savory accompaniments like proscuitto or olives. If serving after dinner, serve with sweeter accompaniments like jams, honeys, and toasted nuts.
  3. Use signage for your cheeses if you like. Shows some personality and intentionality, but if you don’t have time, don’t worry about it. This is just supposed to be about assembling ingredients you love without the hassle of a ton of prep and cooking. Make this easy on yourself!
  4. Each cheese should have its own seperate knife. Have fun with this too. These knives don’t have to be fancy or even match for that matter. Be creative and have fun!

Nothing pretentious.  Uncomplicated. Simple. Summer. Entertaining.

Just remember this simple equation.

Fruit + Cheese= Happiness.

Now, that is the sort of math I am good at.

Happy summer-time (or anytime) entertaining!

xoxoxo

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