It is hot here in this dusty west Texas border town. (That sounds like the beginning of a song!) All I can think of is iced tea and very cool salads to eat. No oven right now in the Tumbleweed Contessa’s kitchen. I use the outside grill some. Most of the time I spend watering the flowers and veggies in the garden just to keep them from burning up. This will pass soon and the famed “monsoon” season will be upon us. We might get an inch of rain!
When I think about a summertime meal one of my favorites is pasta salad. I can eat it all by itself or I like to serve it with a piece of roasted chicken (from the deli) or cold fried chicken (from the Colonel), but I like it served best as a side with a cold ham sandwich the second day. It is great to take on a picnic or to a church pot luck supper too.
I had never eaten a pasta salad until I moved to El Paso. Hank had moved here before our family did. He found a deli near one of his construction projects on the eastside of town. Once we got here he raved about this pasta salad. He even brought it home once or twice for us to try and for me to figure out how to make. I gave it a try or two, but couldn’t make it taste like the deli’s version. So, I gave up. Later on, Jan, a teacher at the SEE School (where I worked) had a pasta salad everyone liked. I ask her for her recipe and she told me she got it from the same deli as Hank used to get his supply from. Finally, that deli opened in a grocery store on the west side (my side of town) and I got to be a regular there to try to figure out how it was made. It was the dressing or marinade that was the secret. Finally I tried a different oil and everyone loved it! I use the Good Season’s Spicy Italian salad dressing mix. Two packets, one made with olive oil and white wine vinegar and one with vegetable oil and white distilled vinegar. The longer it can marinate in the frig before serving, the better it tastes.
- 1 package (16 ounces) uncooked pasta
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1 cup broccoli cuts
- ½ small red onion, finely diced
- ½ cup scallions, thinly sliced (green and white parts)
- 1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
- 3 small carrots peeled and thinly sliced
- 3 celery stalks, finely diced
- 1 medium zucchini, cut in half and thinly sliced into half moons
- 1 jar marinated artichoke hearts cut in quarters, not drained too well
- 1/2 cup green olives, sliced
- ½ cup black olives, sliced
- 3 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1 cup slice white mushrooms
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Italian salad dressing mix (2 packets)
- Olive oil (according to package directions)
- Vegetable oil (according to package directions)
- White wine vinegar (according to package directions)
- White distilled vinegar (according to package directions)
Cook the pasta as directed on package, adding the broccoli to the boiling water for the last 3 minutes of the pasta cooking time. Drain; rinse under cold running water. Drain very well; place in a large bowl to mix.( I use a bowl with a lid to seal well to marinate.)
Add the remaining veggies and toss well with dressing. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or preferably overnight, stirring a few times. Taste before serving to add more dressing or salt and pepper.
I serve the salad lightly drained in a separate bowl with the excess dressing reserved to store leftovers.