Five Steps to Perfect Pasta Salad.

first_img 71 Views   no discussions Follow the five steps outlined here for a stunning, irresistible pasta salad.Step 1. PastaStep 2. Key ingredientsStep 3. Intense flavorsStep 4. Onions & herbsStep 5. DressingI teach cooking classes across the country, and as often as a possible, I demonstrate pasta salad. Why? Because people make it all the time. (When’s the last time you attended a potluck that didn’t have a pasta salad?) But rarely do these sturdy, colorful, economical salads taste as good as they look. They can be dry, bland, oily, sharp or uninteresting.If you’re nervous about making your own salad, simply pretend you’re at a salad bar. Be creative with ingredients you like to eat, but use a little common sense. When making an Asian-style salad, for example, use typical stir-fry ingredients such as celery and bell peppers.Using this formula as a guide, you’ll create beautiful pasta salads that will have people asking for your recipe. The proportions given make enough to serve as a side dish to 12 to 16 people.Step 1:Cook 1 pound of pasta. Select a 16-ounce box or bag of bite-size pasta. I recommend farfalle (bow ties), fusilli (corkscrews), penne, ziti, rotelle (wagon wheels), macaroni or small shells. Cook the pasta in a gallon of boiling water seasoned with 2 tablespoons of salt (that’s right, 2 tablespoons!) until just tender. Drain but do not rinse the pasta. Instead, dump it onto a large-lipped cookie sheet to cool and dry. Don’t worry if the pasta sticks together. The dressing will break it up.Step 2:Prepare 2 pounds of key ingredients. These are the salad’s major add-ins: cooked and raw vegetables, poultry, seafood, canned beans and mild cheeses, for example. Some need little or no preparation before going into the salad. Others can be cooked in the pot of water along with the pasta. Still others are best sauteed or grilled. Choose at least 3 major flavorings. It’s good to let one ingredient lead (for example, 1 pound of asparagus with 8 ounces each of sliced mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, for a total of 2 pounds).Options for cooked vegetablesThese can cook right along with the pasta in the pot of boiling water. Add them to the cooking pasta during the last minute of boiling. Drain and cool them with the pasta for that just-right, tender-crisp texture.Broccoli or cauliflower, florets cut into bite-size pieces, stems peeled and cut into 1/4-inch thick coins Asparagus, trimmed and cut into bite-size lengths Carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch coins Green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-size lengths Snow peas or sugar snap peas, strings removed Zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced 1/4-inch thickOptions for no-fuss vegetablesCanned artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and quartered Bean sprouts Celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick Mushrooms, thinly sliced Cucumbers, quartered lengthwise, cut into bite-size pieces and lightly salted Fennel, trimmed, halved, cored and thinly sliced Avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces (add at last minute to prevent darkening) Zucchini, halved lengthwise if small, quartered lengthwise if large, then thinly sliced Cherry tomatoes, halved and lightly salted Bell peppers, cored and cut into bite-size strips Tomatoes, seeded and cut into medium dice and lightly salted Frozen green peas, thawedOptions for grilled or broiled vegetablesAll of these vegetables should be brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper before grilling or broiling.Eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds; cut into bite-size pieces after grilling Fennel, trimmed, halved, core left intact, and cut into wedges; cut away tough core after grillingLarge whole mushrooms; slice or quarter after grillingBell peppers, cored, seeded and quartered; cut into bite-size pieces after grilling  Zucchini, cut on the diagonal into slices 1/2-inch thickOptions for sauteed vegetablesAsian-style salads taste best with lightly sauteed vegetables, particularly celery and peppers.Celery, sliced 1/4-inch thick Bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into bite-size stripsOptions for other major add-ins Canned beans, drained and rinsedChicken breasts, grilled, sauteed or steamed and cut crosswise into thin bite-size strips Italian sausage, steam-sauteed and sliced thin on a slight bias Cooked lobster Cooked and peeled shrimp Canned tuna, drained Mild cheeses (e.g., mozzarella, cheddar, Swiss, Monterey Jack), cut into 1/2-inch cubes Crabmeat (pasteurized lump), picked over for shell Ham, sliced 1/4-inch thick and cut into bite-size strips Tweet Step 4:Add onions and herbs. No matter what else is in your pasta salad, always add three large green onions, sliced, or half of a small red onion, diced. The types of onions are completely interchangeable, although I tend to use green onions for Asian-style salads.Then mince 3 tablespoons fresh herbs and/or grate 2 teaspoons orange or lemon zest (the peel minus the bitter white pith).For Asian-style pasta salads, consider cilantro, basil and/or the citrus zests. Dill and mint are usually compatible with creamy-style salads. Because rosemary and tarragon are such strong flavors, use just 1 tablespoon of either herb combined with 2 tablespoons of minced parsley.And if you’re ever in doubt about which herbs to use, you’ll never go wrong with good ol’ chopped fresh parsley.Step 5:Make a dressing. Whether you prepare one of the following dressings or choose another, you’ll need 1 cup to coat the salad. The key is to make sure the dressing is thick and emulsified; otherwise, the pasta absorbs the vinegar while the oil clings in droplets to the pasta’s surface. Stick with milder rice wine vinegar or lemon juice. Balsamic vinegar, while flavorful, turns the pasta an unattractive brown, and stronger vinegars make bright green vegetables drab.Each of these recipes makes about 1 cup. You can prepare the ingredients in advance, but toss the salad and dressing only 15 minutes before Food & DiningLifestyle Five Steps to Perfect Pasta Salad. by: – August 26, 2011 Sharecenter_img Share Step 3:Choose intense flavors. Stronger- tasting than the major add-ins, these ingredients should be used more sparingly. Pick at least one representative from this category, but feel free to use two or three–roasted peppers, pine nuts and feta cheese, for example, will give the salad a Mediterranean feel. If making an Asian-style salad, stick to nuts and seeds.OptionsIn most cases, add about 1/2 cup, unless otherwise noted.Feta, crumbledParmesan, shaved with a vegetable peelerGoat cheese, crumbledCapers, drained (1/4 cup)Olives, pitted and coarsely choppedPeperoncini, drained and thinly slicedRoasted peppers, cut into stripsSun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, cut into small diceBacon, fried and crumbled (8 ounces)Prosciutto (8 ounces), thinly sliced, cut into small diceSmoked salmon (8 ounces), thinly sliced, then cut into thin strips (other smoked fish and shellfish are possibilities as well)Pine nuts, toastedRoasted cashews, coarsely choppedRoasted or honey-roasted peanuts, coarsely choppedToasted sesame seeds (1/4 cup)Sunflower seeds Sharing is caring! Sharelast_img

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