2014-05-16 / Columns

Cooking on Purpose

Pasta salads always fit the summer menu
By Connie Wendell
Special contributor

Whether it’s a picnic, potluck, cookout or other gathering of friends and family, pasta salads always fit the occasion during this time of year. Basic pasta salad is great, but it’s fun sometimes to make a salad with a flavor twist. I’ve included some salads with just that twist. Give them a try. I’m sure it’ll be a hit at your next get-together.

Greek pasta salad

12 ounces dried mostaccioli or penne (about 4 cups, uncooked); 2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered; 1 medium cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced; 4 scallions, sliced; 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved; 1/2 cup olive oil; 1/2 cup lemon juice; 2 tablespoons snipped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons, dried basil, crushed; 2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano, crushed; 1 tablespoon anchovy paste (optional); 4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper; 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (4 ounces); and fresh oregano leaves.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain in a colander. Rinse with cold water and drain again.

In a large bowl toss together the cooked pasta, tomatoes, cucumber, scallions and olives. In a screw-top jar, combine olive oil, lemon juice, basil, oregano, anchovy paste (if using), garlic, salt and pepper. Cover and shake well. Drizzle over pasta mixture, toss to coat. Serves 12 to 16 side dishes.

Pea and macaroni salad

1 cup fresh pea pods; 8 ounces dried elbow macaroni; 1 cup frozen peas, thawed; 1/2 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing; 1/2 cup dairy sour cream; 1/3 cup milk; 1/4 cup horseradish mustard; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 1/4 teaspoon salt; 1/4 teaspoon pepper; 3/4 cup sliced celery; 2 tablespoons chopped onion; and pea pods.

Remove tips and strings from pea pods. Cook macaroni according to package directions in lightly salted boiling water, adding pea pods and peas during last 1 minute of cooking. Drain and rinse. Halve pea pods diagonally; set pasta and pea pods aside.

In a small bowl, stir mayonnaise, sour cream, milk, mustard, minced garlic, salt and pepper and set aside. In a large bowl, combine cooked macaroni, pea pods, peas, celery and onion. Pour mayonnaise mixture over the macaroni mixture. Stir gently to combine.

Cover; chill four to 24 hours. Stir mixture before serving. If necessary, add additional milk (1 to 2 tablespoons) to moisten. Top with additional pea pods, if desired. Serves 12 to 16 side dishes.

Grilled chicken pasta salad

1 pound rotini; 2 pounds thinly sliced chicken cutlets; 2 tablespoons lemon juice; 1 large sweet red pepper, cored, seeded and diced; 1 large green pepper, cored, seeded and diced; 1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced; 2 scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced; 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill; 1 cup light mayonnaise or salad dressing; 1/2 cup red wine vinegar; 1/2 cup honey; 1 teaspoon prepared mustard; 1 teaspoon sugar; 1 teaspoon onion powder; 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper; and 1/2 cup canola oil.

Cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta is cooking heat grill pan or broiler. Sprinkle chicken with the lemon juice and grill or broil for about 2 minutes per side or until internal temperature reads 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Set aside and let cool.

When cool, cut chicken into bite-size pieces and mix with cooled pasta in a large bowl. Add diced peppers, onion, scallions and dill.

In a medium-size bowl, whisk mayonnaise, vinegar, honey, mustard, sugar, onion powder, parsley flakes, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in oil. Pour mayonnaise mixture over pasta and chicken and toss. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves eight.

I hope you enjoy these salads and until next time, keep Cooking on Purpose.

Connie Wendell can be reached at conniewendell27@gmail.com.

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