Eric Akis: Pasta salad for your picnic basket

Eric Akis

Packed for a picnic, served for a cool summer lunch, or offered as a side dish, pasta salad is cool, palate-pleasing and perfect to enjoy on a warm summer day

You can also flavour it in all sorts of tasty ways. In today’s recipes, cooked and cooled tube-shaped penne pasta and a nutritious mix of vegetables, such as fresh peas, kale, zucchini and cherry tomatoes, are flavoured with green goddess dressing.

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The latter is a mayonnaise-based dressing flavoured with sour cream, herbs and anchovies, and lore suggests it was first made at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in 1923, when chef Philip Roemer needed something to acknowledge actor George Arliss and his hit play The Green Goddess.

My other pasta salad is also no slouch when it comes to flavour. Cooked and cooled corkscrew-shaped rotini pasta is tossed with a curry-powder-flavoured yogurt-based dressing accented with sweet mango chutney, tangy lime juice, aromatic cilantro and crunchy peanuts.

Like my other pasta salad, this one is also loaded with a mix of vegetables that includes snap peas, carrots, broccoli and bell pepper.

Both salads can be made a few hours before needed. Cover and keep them chilled in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Green Goddess Pasta and Vegetable Salad

In this salad, pasta and vegetables, such as fresh peas and kale, are tossed with a rich and tangy green goddess dressing. You can serve the salad as a main course for a summer lunch, perhaps on a bed of salad greens. It could also be a side dish for such things as grilled salmon, sausages, chicken or lamb.

Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: about 12 minutes
Makes: four main-course, or six to eight side dish, servings

For the green goddess dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

3 anchovy fillets

1 large garlic clove, sliced

1 Tbsp snipped fresh chives, or 1 large green onion, sliced

1/3 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves

1 Tbsp fresh tarragon leaves (see Eric’s options)

1/2 tsp Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Place all ingredients in the cup that came with your immersion (hand) blender, or put them in a food processor or blender. Pulse until smooth. Use dressing as directed below (see Eric’s options).

For the pasta salad

2 cups penne or other similar sized pasta

1/2 to 2/3 cup grated zucchini

1/2 to 2/3 cup grated carrot

2 cups loosely packed chopped kale, stems removed

1 cup fresh peas (see Note and Eric’s options)

12 cherry tomatoes, each quartered

• snipped chives or thinly sliced green onion, to taste, for garnish

Bring a large of pot of water to a boil. Lightly salt the water. Add the pasta and cook until just tender (check package for suggested cooking time). Drain pasta well, cool in ice-cold water, and then drain well again.

Place the pasta in a large bowl. Add the green goddess dressing and remaining salad ingredients and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate salad until ready to serve. Salad can be made few hours before needed. Sprinkle with chives or sliced green onion, just before serving.

Note: In season, B.C. grown fresh green peas in their pods are sold at some grocery stores and at farmers markets. You’ll need to shuck about 45 or so of them (about 350 grams) to get the one cup of peas needed for this recipe.

Eric’s options: If you don’t have fresh tarragon, try another fresh herb to taste, such as oregano leaves or coarsely chopped basil. Or use 1/2 tsp or so of dried tarragon, instead of fresh. If you can’t find or don’t wish to use fresh peas in the salad, used thawed, frozen green peas. If you don’t have a blender or food processor, you could finely chop the herbs, garlic and anchovies by hand, put them in a bowl, and then whisk in the remaining ingredients needed for the dressing.

Curried Pasta Salad with Chutney, Vegetables and Peanuts

Corkscrew-shaped pasta and vegetables are tossed with a mango chutney, lime juice and curry-powder-flavoured dressing in this salad, topped with peanuts for a pleasing crunchiness.

Preparation time: 35 minutes
Cooking time: about 13 minutes
Makes: four main-course, or six to eight side dish, servings.

2 cups rotini or other similar sized pasta

1 cup plain Greek-style yogurt (I used Tree Island brand; see Eric’s options)

1 Tbsp mild or medium curry powder, or to taste

1/3 cup mango chutney (I used Patak’s brand)

1 Tbsp fresh lime

• salt to taste

20 snap peas, halved widthwise, and blanched (see Note)

1 medium (about 200 gram) broccoli crown, cut into bite-sized pieces and blanched (see Note)

1/2 cup grated carrot

1 medium red bell pepper, halved, seeded and thinly sliced

2 to 3 green onions, halved lengthwise, and then cut widthwise, into 1-inch pieces

1/3 to 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (see Eric’s options)

1/2 cup unsalted roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped (see Eric’s options)

Bring a large of pot of water to a boil. Lightly salt the water. Add the pasta and cook until just tender (check package for suggested cooking time). Drain pasta well, cool in ice-cold water, and then drain well again.

Place yogurt, curry powder, chutney and lime juice in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Season the mixture with salt. Toss in the pasta and all remaining ingredients, saving a bit of the chopped cilantro and peanuts to sprinkle on the salad when serving it.

Cover and refrigerate salad until ready to serve. Salad can be made few hours before needed. Sprinkle with reserved chopped cilantro and peanuts, just before serving.

Note: To blanch the snap peas and broccoli, plunge into boiling water one minute. Drain well, cool in ice-cold water, and drain well again. A broccoli crown is the trimmed, top portion of the broccoli. It’s sold that way at most supermarkets.

Eric’s options: If you can’t have dairy, use an equal amount yogurt-like, plain cultured coconut milk. If you don’t like cilantro, try fresh mint or Thai basil. Instead of peanuts, use cashews or almonds.

Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.

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