Friday, November 4, 2011

0 Recipe #297: Greco-Roman Pasta Salad

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Here's an easy and inexpensive dish, the second recipe from the ongoing "Resourceful Recipes" series, which incorporates some of the same ingredients from the previous recipe post, to ensure that none of the leftover ingredients from this recipe will go to waste. :)

The most expensive thing on the ingredient list is probably the nonfat feta cheese, and at that, it's only a few bucks and can be used for multiple recipes.

The only thing that needs to be cooked in this recipe is the pasta; the water takes only 8 minutes to boil, and the pasta another 8 minutes after that. So between these two activities, you should have more than enough time to chop up the ingredients while you're waiting for the pasta to finish.

Nothing like a dish that's easy, healthy, fresh, and cost-effective to boot. What's not to like? :) Making and eating healthy meals doesn't have to be a major production. These are the types of meals that are perfect to make during the week, when there's less time and you're not exactly up for cooking an 8-course meal. ;)

After all of the energy you'll have after making and eating this easy and nutritious dish, maybe you'll be in the mood to wrestle afterwards. ;)

Greco-Roman Pasta Salad

4-6 c. lightly salted water, seasoned with a drop of extra virgin olive oil (for boiling pasta)
1/2 c. dry (uncooked) enriched multi-grain rotini pasta (or other pasta shape)*
2 small anchovy fillets (from a tin, packed in oil) (about 2 tsp.), drained and rinsed (or use 2 tsp. anchovy paste)**
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp. garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 c. red onion, peeled and finely diced
1/3 c. scallions, sliced crosswise into 1/4" thick rounds
1/2 c. nonfat plain feta cheese, diced into 1/2" cubes**
1 1/2 c. grape tomatoes, halved crosswise
1/2 c. brined Kalamata olives, drained, pitted, and halved crosswise
1/3 c. brined Sicilian green cracked olives, drained, pitted, and halved crosswise
1/4 c. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped and densely packed
1/4 c. fresh basil, minced, julienned and densely packed
1 Tbsp. fresh marjoram leaves, densely packed
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, densely packed
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions: Bring water to a rolling boil, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, do your kitchen prep: Squeeze lemon juice and place into a small custard dish; chop up all produce (i.e., garlic, onions, scallions, tomatoes, olives, herbs, etc.) and feta, and place into a large bowl. Using a fork, mash anchovies in a separate, medium-sized bowl. (Or, if it's easier, you can also melt them for a minute or two in a small nonstick pan, and then transfer them back into the bowl.) Cover anchovies with lemon juice, and let stand for 5 minutes. Then add olive oil, garlic, and red onions, and stir until solid ingredients are completely covered in lemon juice and olive oil. Let stand another 5 minutes. (Lemon juice will "cold cook" these ingredients and also remove their pungency.) When water has reached a rolling boil, add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions. (Barilla Plus rotini takes about 8 minutes to cook.) While pasta is cooking, transfer ingredients soaking in lemon juice and olive oil to the large bowl containing the other salad ingredients, and gently toss. Do not drain liquids! (It's important that the lemon juice & olive oil be added to the salad as well, as they will be used to flavor the dish.) When ready, drain pasta into a colander and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Transfer cooled pasta to large bowl containing all other ingredients, season with black pepper, and toss once more until just combined. Ideally, it's best to chill the salad in the refrigerator (in a covered container) for at least 30 minutes before serving, so that the flavors have an opportunity to meld. Serve chilled or at room temperature, and enjoy!

Yield: 2-3 servings as a main course, or 3-4 as a side dish.

Chef's Notes: Optional ingredients: This salad would also taste good with fresh, sliced mushrooms, &/or cucumbers. Or, raw zucchini, in place of the cucumbers, would also work as well.

*I recommend using Barilla Plus pasta, which is a type of multigrain pasta enriched with protein, fiber, and ALA Omega-3's. Please note that I'm not being paid to say this. :) I just really like this kind of pasta; plus, it's got obvious nutritional advantages over regular plain pasta. This is one of the few multigrain pastas I've tried that doesn't actually taste like it's multigrain, if you get my gist. ;)

**To make this recipe vegetarian, just omit the anchovies, but still follow the directions for "cold cooking" the other ingredients in the lemon juice and olive oil mixture. To make this recipe vegan, simply omit the feta cheese or substitute a non-dairy cheese substitute like soy cheese, etc.

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