Sunday, June 10, 2012

Shockingly Delicious Pasta Salad

Best Pasta Salad

Oh, Jamie Oliver, I do adore you. I love your enthusiasm for simple dishes, your weird refusal to use exact recipes, and yes, your scruffy handsomeness. My mom and I both gasped with delight when we saw you'd be appearing this week on Masterchef Australia. And your Jamie at Home show is one of the loveliest things I've ever seen on TV.

Now, not to quibble or anything, but I can not understand why you seem to shun protein in your vegetarian dishes. When I look up a recipe on your website (which has a whole "vegetarian" category) it's inevitably what I'd actually refer to as a "vegetable dish" rather than a "vegetarian dish". A vegetable dish is a dish of vegetables. It is eaten as part of a meal where there the all-important protein being served in some other dish. A vegetarian dish, on the other hand, is a balanced way for vegetarians to get their nutrition.

lentils

Not that the "vegetarian" dishes aren't delicious! They are! But really, would it kill your recipe developers to throw us a bean? Or a lentil? Or perhaps some tofu? Those elements are in the recipes now and again, but usually I'm left to protein-up the recipes all on my own.

Or is that what you wanted all along? Is this another version of your in-exact recipes? A clever way to push home cooks into making these recipes their own? Well, if it is, mission accomplished with me and this pasta salad.

weigh it

I can't remember why I even sought out this recipe, but it was likely when I was desperate to make some dishes whose leftovers could be taken for lunch on a workday. Bonus points for not needing extreme refrigeration or requiring a heat up at meal time. I figured since the Jamie Oliver site deemed this "the best", it might actually be less boring than most of the pasta salads one finds at deli counters or potlucks. My only issue with the recipe was the aforementioned lack of protein. A bunch of lentils and some kidney beans solved that problem. Otherwise, I've been making it (and making it, and making it again) pretty much exactly the way the recipe says. Normally I wouldn't bother posting a recipe that isn't completely my own creation, but when I posted a photo of this on Instagram I got a few requests for it to make its way to the blog. And since it's such an easy, healthy, crowd-pleasy kind of recipe, it doesn't seem like a bad idea to post it after all.



Best Pasta Salad- Now With Protein!

adapted from jamieoliver.com

1 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup cooked or canned kidney beans
11 oz small shells pasta
(I had to use white pasta, because I couldn't find any small shells in whole wheat)
3 fairly small cloves of garlic still in their skins
1 1/2 cups yellow cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 1/2 cups red cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/2 an english cucumber, chopped
1/4 cup pitted black olives, chopped
2 tbsp fresh chives, chopped
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh basil, chopped
4 tbsp white wine vinegar
7 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Boil 3 cups of lightly salted water and add the dry lentils. Cook until they are tender, approximately 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In a larger pot of salted water, boil pasta and whole cloves of garlic until the pasta is al dente, approximately 5 minutes. Drain pasta and set garlic aside to cool. You want your garlic to be smushy. If you can't squeeze it out of its skin, then you'll need to boil it for a little longer.

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, herbs, and olives in a large bowl and add cooled pasta and lentils. Uniformity is crucial to make this salad work well, so ensure that all your vegetables are chopped to similar sizes. Using the size of the pieces of pasta is a good guide.

salad in progress

Using a mortar and pestle or some other kind of mashing apparatus, smush the boiled garlic into a paste. Then add vinegar and olive oil. You can season this dressing with salt and pepper if you are feeling brave, or you can wait until the whole salad is mixed and season it to taste then.

Mix the dressing in with all the other ingredients. Season accordingly and chill in the fridge for half an hour or so before serving.

Serves six as a side dish or four as a main dish. I recommend serving it as a side dish so you have lots left over for lunches. And if you hide the leftovers in the back of the fridge, maybe no one else will know they're there.

J.


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