Confetti Pasta Salad

I first tasted a variant of this salad on an airplane in the glory days of airline travel, when they served real food with real utensils in-flight.  I was intrigued with the savory-sweet combo of the spices and onion against the corn kernels, and wanted to reproduce this.  It didn’t seem to really provide that perfect combination of flavors, but I couldn’t figure out what I was missing until my sister Christine came to visit: she added a shake or two of cayenne pepper to the pasta salad.  Eureka!  That was it.

Use Lemon Vinaigrette for your dressing and then gently shake the cayenne over the top of the salad, then blend in. Caution–a little cayenne goes a long way.

Salad:
1/2 lb. (1/2 of a box) orzo (a rice-shaped pasta), cooked and drained–you may need to use a wire mesh strainer instead of a colander to drain (it’s tiny!)
1 can black beans (15 oz.), drained & rinsed
1/2 bag bag frozen WHITE tender corn, approx. 16 ounces
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced (pieces are about 1/4″ size)–roughly 1/2 to 2/3 cup
fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, to yield about 1/3 cup

Place in large bowl: cooked orzo, beans, corn, pepper, onion and cilantro; pour vinaigrette over the top and stir gently.  As you toss it over the salad, add more olive oil if it looks dry. Season with salt, pepper and a small amount of cayenne, gently fold into salad.  Be cautious: you can always add more cayenne.  Sometimes I’ll just sprinkle that over the finished dish instead.

You can serve with grilled chicken breasts (marinate them also in the vinaigrette before cooking); garnish with lettuce leaf.

If you make it ahead and need to refrigerate it, bring it to room temperature to serve.  Serves 4-6 main dish servings.

For a variation: serve with crumbled mild Feta cheese and halved grape tomatoes.

Quinoa Spring Salad

Basic directions for the Quinoa Salad for the Women’s Conference.

While I show the prep work for ONE batch of salad, please keep in mind that yours will be tripled, using the recipe amounts found below.

Thanks in advance for helping us out with the luncheon!

Shopping Preamble & Some Tips:

TIP #1: Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”) is a grain that is full of protein and is fairly mild.  You can buy it in boxes at Trader Joe’s (you’ll need 1 and 1/2 pounds or  three cups–check the box for weight; photo is above).

You can also buy it by the pound at Sprouts, up in the Mission Grove area.  Again, buy about a pound and half by the store’s scales; this gave me about 3 cups.  DON’T buy the red quinoa–we want the beige color quinoa.

Trader Joe’s also has shelled edamame, but so does Sprouts (in the back by the produce in the flat freezer cases).
SHELLED Edamame looks like smooth little lima beans. The one above is Trader Joe’s.

This is how the bag from Sprouts looks.  Again, get the shelled edamame.

Please buy MILD Feta cheese in a block and crumble it yourself (see salad directions).  I bought this at Ralph’s–while they have it many places, I couldn’t always find the mild, as many times the feta is flavored.  Don’t buy the flavored Feta.  [Note: if you are desparate, and can’t get to Ralph’s, it is okay if you buy it pre-crumbled–you’ll need a 6 to 8 ounce package.]

TIP #2: When mincing the jalapeno, get rid of all the seeds and the membrane and then wash your hands thoroughly.  Those two parts are the “spicy-hot” parts of the jalapeno.  When I say finely minced, I mean teensy.  We don’t want any observable chunks of jalapeno in the salad.  It’s just for flavor.

TIP #3: Please use good quality olive oil.  Not that light stuff (which is blended with another vegetable oil) or any other cooking oil.  Just olive oil.  If you don’t have any, come see me.  I’ve got vats (I buy if from Costco in bulk).

If you wish to be reimbursed for your expenses, please save all your receipts–I’ll reimburse you that day, after the luncheon is over. However, we would appreciate it if you could donate your salad.

Please drop it off at the kitchen before going into the conference, and cross your name off the list, so we’ll know whose salad has arrived.  Thank you in advance for your willingness to help us out–with your contribution, this luncheon will be a big success (and delicious!).

Now to the recipe.

Recipe for Women’s Conference (The Recipe is Tripled)

SALAD:
3 cups dry quinoa
5 cups water
1 and 1/2 16 ounce bags of frozen WHITE frozen corn
1 large red onion (or about 3/4 cup), cut in small dice (about 1/4″ pieces or smaller)
3 red bell peppers, cut in small dice
1 and 1/2 cups cup thinly sliced celery, from the tender inner stalks (about 6)
12 to 15 radishes, sliced
1 and 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen edamame
6-8 ounces feta, crumbled.  I buy the bricks of it at Ralph’s, then crumble it.
1 and 1/2  jalapeño chile, seeds and membranes removed, minced finely
1 cup chopped cilantro

DRESSING:
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes, depending on size) (I have plenty of limes that were given to me.  Holler if you want then.)
3 garlic cloves, finely minced or pureed
1  cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

For Salad:

Bring the water to a boil, add quinoa and cook for about 12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and you see the white cuticle of the grain. Set aside.

Soak the onion in cold water to cover for five minutes. Drain, rinse and drain again on paper towels.

Place the edamame in hot, but not boiling, water for about 5 minutes to thaw.

Measure out the corn and add it to a very large mixing bowl.  The corn will thaw very quickly. If yours has been kicking around in the freezer for a hundred years, perhaps you’ll want to run it under some hot water to refresh it.  Drain well.

Seed and devein the jalapenos, then mince finely.    I cut the jalapeno into slices, then turn the cutting board 90 degrees, then chop again.  I then go at it again, chopping the bits like I do nuts, over and over.

My hand is there for a guide to how small it is. If you are an experienced cook, I apologize for boring you, but I wanted to be clear on the directions. Place into bowl.

Chop the red bell pepper into fine dice (1/4 inch). Place into bowl.

Drain the onion and the edamame, then place on paper towels to drain again, then place into bowl.

Cilantro is stored upright in the refrigerator in an glass of water, with a plastic produce bag over it to keep it fresh.  When you need some, just whack it off above the twisty-tie; a thumbs-width-worth is about 1/3 cup chopped, more or less.  For a cup, you may need about 1/2 bunch.  To measure, layer the leaves in the cup loosely–don’t pack!!  Or use the guide of three thumbs-width bunches.  Remove any gangly stems before chopping.  Add the cilantro to the bowl.

Choose celery from the inner core of the bunch; the two laying crosswise on top are representative.

Trim off the raggedy ends and cut the rest of the stalk thinly, yielding moon-shaped slices; add to the bowl.

Feta cheese is sold in blocks like this: choose MILD.  Cut off what you need.

Crumble the cheese, then add to large mixing bowl.

One fun thing about this salad is the amount of crunchy vegetables.  Here’s one more: radishes.  We serve this salad all through the summer!  Add these to the large mixing bowl, then toss all ingredients together lightly.

For Dressing:

Smash a garlic clove under your knife to loosen the papery skin; peel off and discard.  You can either mince the clove finely (finer than the jalapeno), or do what I do:

Put it in a garlic press and press it into the bowl.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients. Please use bonafide, good quality olive oil.  See Tip #3 above.  Toss with the salad. Serve.

Advance preparation: The quinoa freezes well and the assembled salad will keep for a day in the refrigerator. It’s fine to make the whole salad a day ahead and then bring it Saturday morning.  It still tastes fresh.  Please use these proportions; we’ll add more dressing if we need to, but we don’t want soggy salads.

Thanks so much!!

Recipe yield: 45 one-half cup servings.  Yes, we are counting every serving.  We currently have 285 servings coming, so I’ll be making up a batch myself to bring it up to the 300 servings that we need for that day.

If you want to make this for your family, the amounts for a single batch can be found if you click **here**.

Confetti Pasta Salad-Women’s Conference

Basic directions for the Confetti Pasta Salad for the Women’s Conference.

While I show the prep work for ONE batch of salad, please keep in mind that yours will be tripled, using the recipe amounts found below.

Thanks in advance for helping us out with the luncheon!

Shopping Preamble & Some Tips:

This is Orzo.  It’s a type of pasta that looks like large rice.  You’ll need a fine wire mesh strainer of some sort for draining after its cooked–it washes out of a typical colander’s larger holes.

It doesn’t much matter which brand of black beans that you buy.  I’ve used both a name brand and store brand and found both to be fine.

Here’s the basic round-up.

NOTE: Please use good quality olive oil.  Not that light stuff (which is blended with another vegetable oil) or any other cooking oil.  Just olive oil.  If you don’t have any, come see me.  I’ve got vats (I buy if from Costco in bulk).

If you wish to be reimbursed for your expenses, please save all your receipts–I’ll reimburse you that day, after the luncheon is over. However, we would appreciate it if you could donate your salad.

Please drop it off at the kitchen before going into the conference, and cross your name off the list, so we’ll know whose salad has arrived.  Thank you in advance for your willingness to help us out–with your contribution, this luncheon will be a big success (and delicious!).

Salad (The recipe is already tripled):

1 and 1/2 pound boxes of orzo  [NOTE: 1/2 box is about one and 1/4 cups of dry orzo.]
3 cans black beans (15 oz.), drained & rinsed
2 bags frozen WHITE tender corn, approx. 16 ounces
3 red bell peppers, finely diced
1 and 1/2 cups of red onion, finely diced (pieces are about 1/4″ size or smaller)
about 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

Bring a large pot of water to boil; add orzo.  Cook until nearly tender (not mushy, but not crunchy).  Drain, using a fine wire mesh strainer.  This may have to be done in batches.  Place drained orzo in a large mixing bowl.  You’ll continually add ingredients to this bowl as you chop and prepare them.

Drain the cans of beans, and rinse until water is clear.  Add to bowl, along with both bags of white corn–no need to defrost. Add the rest of the ingredients:  chopped red pepper, minced onion.

A cilantro bunch is kept in a glass of water, upright and covered with a plastic bag.  To use just whack off just above the twisty tie.  It will keep like this for at least a week or two (change water as needed).  I find a thumb’s thickness yields about 1/3 cup, chopped.  To measure, place LOOSELY in a measuring cup, or use the thumb-measure method.

Add chopped cilantro to everything in the large mixing bowl; pour one batch of Lemon Vinaigrette dressing over the mixture and stir gently to mix.  This can be made one day ahead.  Please cover tightly and refrigerate.

Lemon Vinaigrette:
1 lemon (to yield about 4 tablespoons juice)
1/2 – 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard (do NOT substitute other mustards)
2 Tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence (you can buy this in the grocery store, or see me)
salt and pepper to taste

First, squeeze the juice of 1 lemon into a medium bowl.

Add the Herbes de Provence, a few grinds (or shakes) of salt and pepper, water and sugar.

Whisk to blend, then add the Dijon mustard (a healthy squirt) and whisk again.

Keeping that whisk going, dribble in olive oil until it starts to thicken, then add some more.  I probably use about 1/3 to 1/2 cup in total.  Cconcentrate on it going from watery looking to slightly thicker as it emulsifies, while you are continually whisking and dribbling.  The success of this is in the two actions: dribbling and whisking.  It takes about a minute or two.

Recipe yield: 45 one-half cup servings.  Yes, we are counting every serving.  We currently have 285 servings coming, so I’ll be making up a batch myself to bring it up to the 300 servings that we need for that day.

If you want to make this for your family, the amounts for a single batch can be found if you click **here**.

Elizabeth’s Vegetable Lasagna

I don’t know how I dreamed up this dish.  I guess it was when I had to take something to a church supper, and I didn’t want another lasagna that weighed 40 tons on the plate and would send a person into cardiac arrest.  I wanted something that had a rich taste, but didn’t have the greasy, overloaded-with-cheese experience that is germane to this dish.  Now those types have their place.  Just not on my plate.

This recipe is open to variations, and is always a winner, even though that is a cliche.  I think the inclusion of the mushrooms give it a meaty taste, the vegetables bring it juiciness and the minimal cheese brings it richness.

We make this a lot in summer and it is really good leftover in lunch containers.  I like it also in winter as it is satisfying.  Okay, enough of telling you what it is and isn’t–the recipe follows with pictures.  Make it yourself and decide.

Ingredients:
about 1 pound crimini mushrooms, also known as brown mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 red sweet bell pepper, julienned
1 yellow sweet bell pepper, julienned
3 medium or 2 large zucchini, scrubbed clean and sliced
9 oz package of no-boil flat lasagne noodles (I use Barilla brand in a blue box)
1 jar spaghetti sauce (I use Ragu with extra mushrooms)
1/2 to 1 cup water
less than 8 oz. whole-milk mozzerella cheese, cut in thin slices (I use Precious brand, in shrink wrap)  I can’t give you an exact amount because while I use it sparingly, you may want more.

Start by sauteeing about a pound of mushrooms in a small amount of olive oil and butter (equal parts).  Don’t crowd the pan–do it in several bathes.  Then slice up the bell peppers and do the same. The zucchini needs the same workup.

Place about 1/2 cup of sauce in the bottom of a baking dish, approximately 9 by 13-inch size.  Spread the sauce to cover the bottom, then place a layer of noodles on top of that, covering the bottom of the dish.  It’s okay to break some in half if you need to do that, now, or later on.  Add water to the top of the spaghetti sauce jar, replace lid and shake to blend.

Top the noodles with about one-third of your mushrooms.  Spoon some sauce over that, then using a light touch, place the thin slices of cheese on top of that.  I do not cover the surface.  Instead it looks more like the red squares on a checkerboard, with the black squares being left devoid of cheese.

Layer in more noodles, more sauce, and then add about another 1/2 cup of water to the jar of sauce, shake to blend.  Your next layer can be the peppers, as shown above, or zucchini. There’s no set order, just alternate mushrooms, peppers, and zucchini until the pan is full.

This is how I place my cheese: sparingly. I promise you that you won’t miss the excess.

Keep layering (this is the mushroom layer–I heap those babies on) until you end with noodles.  Or mushrooms, or whatever. Place the rest of the sauce on top of that (you can always slosh in some more water if you’re running low on sauce), then cheese. Stroke the dull side of a large piece of tinfoil with a cube of butter to grease it, then place it over your lasagna, crimping to seal the edges.

Bake in a 375-degree oven until bubbly, about 50-60 minutes.  If your cheese isn’t melted (take a peek), you can uncover your lasagna and bake for about 5 more minutes, until it is.  Let it stand for a about 10-15 minutes before serving, then enjoy!

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Take Two

I had originally cooked up this recipe (from Simply Recipes) with bacon, so had written it up the way I cooked it.  I have to admit we were underwhelmed by this recipe, but did like it.  Just before I left on my trip to Florence, Italy I was cleaning out the fridge and saw a head of cauliflower.  Now that I knew I could, I did–I roasted it and threw it in the freezer.

Fast forward to last night, when I was tired, the fridge is too full of stuff and I need a meal.  I had picked up some prosciutto (which I didn’t have before) and decided to give this another go.  Wow.  What a difference.  The only changes I made were to roast the defrosted (already roasted) cauliflower for only 10 minutes, along with the tomatoes (using the sweet sugar cherry toms that I had) and to change out the pasta for a similar shaped type.  I chopped the prosciutto with the garlic and fresh sage from my garden (the only thing that seems to have survived this heat!), mixed it in when the recipe said.  My husband loved it, and so did I.

This picture is from try Take Three, this time with the spinach added in.  Manna.

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower and Prosciutto

Ingredients

1/2 medium cauliflower, cored and broken up into 3/4-inch florets (4+ cups)
1 pint cherry tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 and 1/2 teaspoons dried sage
4 large cloves garlic
4 ounces of prosciutto
8 ounces orecchiette pasta
5 ounces baby arugula or spinach, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method

1 Preheat oven to 425°F. Lay out cauliflower and tomatoes in a roasting pan, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until just lightly browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

2 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 teaspoon salt for every quart of water).

3 While water is heating, pulse garlic, sage, and prosciutto together in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Once cauliflower has browned lightly, remove from oven, toss cauliflower with garlic prosciutto mixture, and return to oven to cook for 5-7 minutes more.

4 Boil pasta uncovered (rolling boil) for 9-10 minutes until firm, but done (al dente). Reserve one cup of pasta liquid. Drain water from pot. Add cauliflower, arugula (or spinach), and Parmesan to the pasta. Stir in enough cooking water to moisten (I added about 1/2 cup). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.

Angel-hair Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Angel-Hair Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce
Gourmet  | July 2006
by Ian Knauer

This is my new favorite summer recipe.  I can never figure out how much 3 pounds of tomatoes is.  Here’s my guesstimate: 4 huge tomatoes, or 6 large tomatoes, or 8 regular tomatoes, or 12 Romas.  I guess I could weigh them, but these aren’t the kind of tomatoes you buy in the grocery store.  They’re the kind you get from your, or your neighbor’s, garden.  Really Fresh tomatoes.

Ingredients
1 small garlic clove
3 lb tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 lb dried capellini (angel-hair pasta)
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Accompaniments: finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Preparation
Mince garlic and mash to a paste with a pinch of salt using a large heavy knife.  This is kind of a cool mixture.  Mash and mash until you can’t tell one from the other–really moosh them together.  You’ll feel like a real chef.

Core and coarsely chop two thirds of tomatoes. Halve remaining tomatoes crosswise, then rub cut sides of tomatoes against large holes of a box grater set in a large bowl, reserving pulp and discarding skin. Toss pulp with chopped tomatoes, garlic paste, lemon juice, salt, sugar (if using), and pepper. Let stand until ready to use, at least 10 minutes. Note: Tomato mixture can stand at room temperature up to 2 hours.

While tomatoes stand, cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately add to tomato mixture, tossing to combine. Sprinkle with basil.

Quinoa Basic Directions

Follow the direction on the box or bag.  Really.

I usually use 1 cup dry quinoa (and I don’t rinse it) to 1 1/2-3 cups liquid.  I like using water, then I can mix it with other things, but I’ve also used chicken broth.

If this makes too much, dump the cooked quinoa into a ziploc bag and freeze it.  To use, put it in your microwave on a defrost setting, just until you can mush it between your fingers.

If you want to get fancy, you can go this way:
Wash 2 cups dry quinoa (about 10 ounces) in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a large sieve each time. Cook quinoa in a 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until almost tender, about 10 minutes. Drain in sieve, then set sieve over same pot with 1 inch of simmering water (water should not touch bottom of sieve). Cover quinoa with a folded kitchen towel, then cover sieve with a lid (don’t worry if lid doesn’t fit tightly) and steam until quinoa is tender, fluffy, and dry, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand (still covered) 5 minutes.

Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower

This is one of those recipes that you pick up while meandering through the blogosphere and end up really liking it.  I do like it.  See additional post.
Ingredients
1/2 medium cauliflower, cored and broken up into 3/4-inch florets (4+ cups)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, or 1 cup quartered tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh sage
3 large cloves garlic
2 ounces of bacon, fat trimmed and cut into small dice
8 ounces orecchiette pasta
5 ounces spinach, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation

1 Preheat oven to 425°F. Lay out cauliflower and tomatoes in a roasting pan, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until just lightly browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes.

2 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 teaspoon salt for every quart of water).

3 While water is heating, pulse garlic, sage, and prosciutto together in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Once cauliflower has browned lightly, remove from oven, toss cauliflower with garlic prosciutto mixture, and return to oven to cook for 5-7 minutes more.

4 Boil pasta uncovered (rolling boil) for 9-10 minutes until firm, but done (al dente). Reserve one cup of pasta liquid. Drain water from pot. Add cauliflower, arugula (or spinach), and Parmesan to the pasta. Stir in enough cooking water to moisten. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.