I'm a big believer in using what I have in the garden, fridge and pantry to create a meal. I will do almost anything in order to stay out of the supermarket. I would much rather prefer to run to my small, family owned neighborhood market that carries almost everything I need, including some very lovely produce.
So as I wandered (sleepily, I might add) through my garden this morning and noticed a dark green, ready to be picked zucchini and 6 or 7 perfectly red, plump, cherry tomatoes ready to harvest, I thought of the perfect summer meal..pasta salad.
Knowing I had at the least, a red onion in the fridge, my ingredient list was being formed in my mind. I checked the pantry for pasta. Found a pound of brown rice pasta from my favorite (small specialty market). I figured the dense texture that brown rice pasta provides, it would fare well with what I had in mind.
Now pasta salad can be a great light summer meal, full of vegetables and flavor, but it can also be rather boring. So my challenge on this Monday afternoon was to make this salad with not only flavor and texture, but one with a bit of kick as well. The dressings on most pasta salad's (including those that we see sitting in various deli cases..don't get me started there), tend to be heavy with way too much tang. My goal here is to create a pasta salad where you can actually taste the ingredients; pasta, fresh vegetables, herbs and the creamy addition of cheese. In this case I opted for feta, which has the creamy consistency I like with just the right tang. But go for the real Greek feta, it costs a bit more, but it's well worth it.
So after cooking the pasta, I took a look in the vegetable bin and found a couple of carrots. Just the right thing for color and crunch. I also opted for the red onion instead of the shallot that was hiding behind the lettuce. Red onion is a bit sweeter, and will add more color. Now with all three chopped and added to the pasta, in went salt and pepper, the lemon zest, and using that same lemon, several good squeezes, all to taste. Next, the olive oil, a generous pour, and a splash of red wine vinegar. I gave it a taste and it was good, but still didn't have that kick..off I went back to the garden. I spotted a red jalapeno, grabbed some basil, chopped again and added it to the mix. Yummy, but still wanted something to add more crunch and flavor. Tucked in the freezer were some roasted pine nuts, so in they went. It was good, but I needed a taster just to be sure. In comes Tess (my 19 year old daughter) who was happy to grab a fork and have a sample.
"Hmm, really good Mom"...and that's good enough for me!