Friday, June 11, 2010

Positively pasta summer salads

6/9/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Positively pasta summer salads

The only kind of pasta salad that my generation made was a macaroni, celery, onion, sweet pickle and cheese cubes combination with a mayonnaise dressing. Sometimes we’d throw in a little tuna if we wanted to make it a main dish. It was a tasty summer side dish but today we have other choices. In fact, just walking down the pasta aisle, the choices can be overwhelming.

My personal combination favorite is “Trio Italiano,” an American Beauty mix. It has shells, corkscrews and penne pasta in a 12 ounce size that easily serves 6-8 people. It can be served as a cold salad or hot with a marinara sauce. I also keep on hand a package of those colorful garden spirals of spinach and tomato powder to brighten up a plate of chicken or seafood.

Pasta should be quite firm for salads. Do not overcook. Drain, rinse in cold water until cool and then drain again. While the pasta is cooking, gather up all your other ingredients and start slicing and dicing.

I do prefer homemade dressings, but there are exceptions. I think that Kraft makes a better coleslaw and poppy seed dressing than I do and I use them. Paul Newman’s makes a lite raspberry-walnut vinaigrette that’s out of this world on a green salad with fruit in it. So, when you buy good dressings on sale, I think they’re worth every penny.

One of the frustrating things about salad recipes is that each calls for a different dressing. But standard salad dressings are versatile and if a recipe calls for an Italian-style vinaigrette, there’s no reason that you can’t just reach in the refrigerator, grab what you’ve got and add a little soy sauce or something to make it similar to the recipe.

Back in our restaurant years, we used gallons of my husband’s delicious Thousand Island dressing. His handwritten recipe simply says this: Mix all ingredients in mixer: 3/4 carton mayonnaise (20#), 1 #10 can chili sauce, 1/2 gallon sweet pickle relish. Now, that’s a lot of dressing. The recipe below is a scaled down version.

I have been making my own light version of Italian dressing for years. I double the original recipe, mix it in a blender and taste it until it seems right. Give it a try. If it’s too tart add more oil; not tart enough, more vinegar. It’s very flexible and the water cuts down on the oil.

Following are some ideas to get your creative juices going for pasta salads. Just remember that the pasta usually soaks up lots of dressing so be prepared to close your eyes and grimace as all those calories get poured over the salad. Also, keep the salads cold when transporting and during the meal. No food poisoning allowed! Enjoy!

Hawaiian Pasta Salad

2 cups chicken, cooked and diced
12 ounces mixed pasta
1 small can pineapple tidbits, drained
1—11 ounce can mandarin orange slices, drained
1/2-1 small red onion, minced
1 small avocado, diced
1 small avocado, diced
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Creamy Poppy Seed Dressing:
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
Dash pepper

Mix dressing with a whisk in small bowl or in a shaker with tight fitting lid. Cover and refrigerate.
Cook and dice chicken, set aside.
Heat water in large kettle to boiling. Stir in pasta and return to boil. Cook 5-8 minutes. Drain and rinse pasta with cold water until cool. Drain well. Combine pasta, chicken, fruit, onion and one avocado. Pour dressing over mixture and refrigerate at least one hour. Garnish with chopped avocado and almonds. Serve on lettuce leaf.

Shrimp Pasta Salad

2 cups cooked salad shrimp
12 ounces mixed pasta
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, sliced
6 ounces pea pods (or 3/4 cup frozen peas, defrosted)
1-8 ounce can water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup pimento stuffed olives, optional

1/2 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey
1-2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Heat water in large kettle to boiling. Stir in pasta and return to boil. Cook 5-8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water until cool. Drain well. Add shrimp and vegetables to pasta. Pour dressing over pasta mixture and toss lightly. Chill at least 1-2 hours.
Personal opinion: Best with 1000 Island dressing.

Betty’s Vegetable Pasta Salad

1 12-ounce package Garden Spirals pasta
1/4 cup red onion, finely minced
3 celery stalks, sliced in moons,
1 cup halved zucchini slices
1 cup small cheddar cheese cubes
1/2 can whole, small black olives, drained
1 jar artichoke hearts, drained and cut in half
2 carrots, grated, rinsed, drained and liquid pressed out
Garlic salt and pepper to taste
Italian Dressing

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water until cool. Drain again. Add all ingredients and mix lightly with desired amount Italian dressing. Garnish with tomato wedges. Refrigerate several hours. Serves 8.

Betty’s Low Cal Italian Dressing

2/3-cup oil
1/3-cup cold water
2/3 cup red wine vinegar
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon each: dill, basil, and tarragon
Few red pepper flakes if desired
1 teaspoon sugar

Put in blender and mix. Taste and add whatever is lacking.
Refrigerate several hours before serving. Keeps well.

Chuck’s 1000 Island Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup chili sauce
2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish

Mix everything together and chill. You’ll never buy store bought again!

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner
is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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