Everyone has a few tried and true favorite BBQ dishes they cook up for a party or bring to share. My tortellini salad is one of my Barbecue staples.
Before I share the recipe, I want to discuss pasta salad fails. These are, in my opinion, common pasta salad mistakes:
- Pasta is way too al dente. It’s one thing if it’s being served hot and will cook to perfection once sauce is added. It’s a whole other story to under cook. Hint: Pasta should not be crunchy.
- Pasta is too soft: Pasta shouldn’t be mushy, it should be firm. When boiling pasta remove when it just starts floating to the surface. For a pasta salad, rinse with cold water to stop cooking. It should never bloat to three times its original size.
- Using cheap pasta: I’m a frugal gal, but I also believe we get what we pay for. Cheap pasta yields cheap results. If using tortelli or ravioli take care to buy a premium brand. Fresh pasta is the best.
- Mayonnaise: Mixing pasta with mayonnaise does not a pasta salad make. It’s just fattening, artery clogging, mayonaisy pasta that you’ll have to throw away after an hour of leaving out anyway. Use your imagination and stop mixing stuff with mayo and calling it salad.
So, keeping this in mind, let’s move along to the recipe. Note that I don’t have amounts listed – that’s because it’s a matter of preference. Some folks like more veg and less tortellini and some want subtlety. In any event, it’s in the eye of the beholder.
- Tortellini – For this one I used a mushroom tortellini which added a whole other level of yumminess.
- Cherry tomatoes
- Avocado – Cubed
- Artichoke hearts
- Black Olives
- Chopped garlic
- Mozzarella – If you didn’t splurge for the premium mozzarella, then you may as well just use Velveeta. Fresh, homemade is the best.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Cook pasta and toss with EVOO so it doesn’t stick together. Add the rest of the good stuff and salt and pepper to taste. Chill, baby, chill.
Will you be trying this recipe? Tell us what you think – especially let us know what kind of modifications you made.
A couple of weeks ago at the farm market, there were figs. I love the way figs taste but I also love that they remind me of growing up in Queens. Our Italian neighbors across the back fence grew some pretty neat stuff, wine grapes was one, and fig trees were another. Every summer, they had figs on their trees they grew in pots on their patio and would hand over the fence a big bowl for us. We sat at the picnic table biting and chewing the figs. Then later in the fall they took big burlap rugs or cloth and wound it around each tree to try and keep it alive for another winter. They lasted a few years, but the NY winters were rough on the fig trees.
We found the last container of figs at Anderson Orchards. The farmer said he’d have more, but we didn’t have time to go back since we went on vacation. When I asked how he kept the trees alive over the winter since they are a kind of tender tree in Ohio, he said he has a tunnel over about 60 trees but he doesn’t heat it, just keeps a cover over top of them. I wish I had time to go back for more figs.
We also bought some local honey from Honeyrun Farm in Williamsport, which I thought would go well with a balsamic vinaigrette over the salad. We had Black Corinthe grapes on hand, sweet tiny grapes called champagne grapes sometimes and really delicious soft cheese. The salad was missing pecans or walnuts to go in the salad this time. Toasted nuts would have made the salad fantastic. This was a really good dinner salad, but would also make a good salad course. Enjoy.
- Salad greens
- 12 figs
- 2 oz Pancetta
- 4 oz very fresh soft goat cheese or sheepsmilk cheese
- ½ cup champagne grapes
- ¼ cup pecans
- 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbs honey
- 4 tbs olive oil
- Chop pancetta and then saute pancetta in a pan until crispy.
- Drain on paper towel, wipe pan mostly clean.
- Halve the figs and heat face down on pan, then flip and do the other side.
- Remove figs to bowl.
- Toast pecans in pan and remove to small plate
- Add the dressing ingredients into the pan and swirl around, then whisk into small bowl.
- Rinse and drain salad greens.
- Place Salad Greens on place.
- Sprinkle pancetta over top.
- Place figs around the salad greens.
- Using a spoon scoop out dollops of cheese and place around the plate.
- Rinse dry and sprinkle grapes around the plate.
- Sprinkle pecans around the salad greens.
- Re-whisk dressing and pour over salad.
I think some seasonal fruits and vegetables become ripe at the same time for a reason… like they tastes so great together. Or maybe they taste so well together because they ripen at the same time. Peaches and blackberries are the perfect combination. This fruit salad can be a side or a dessert, either way it’s sweet, fruity and delicious. The mint takes it up a notch and white wine is the perfect finishing touch. Four ingredients for the perfect salad and while you peel and chop the peaches and chop the mint, most of the work is quick and easy and it can be made ahead and chilled while you work on something else. I served this at the (birthday) dinner party for the kids (college age kids) this weekend. It was wiped out – gone. I also made it for dinner tonight as a side for our main pasta dish.
- 5 peaches
- 1 pint blackberries
- 1 handful of mint
- ½ cup of white wine
- Rinse and peel peaches and slice thin – but not super thin.
- Rinse and drain blueberries.
- Pull mint leaves off the stem and mince.
- Toss the peaches, blackberries and mint together.
- Splash white wine over top.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Easy Peasy.
Mother’s Day – Cobb Salad – I think they can go together really well.
Reason 1 :The ingredients in my fridge were pointing towards salad with all the greens I had accumulated. Spring is a great time for salad greens, they thrive when it is cooler, and slow down or bolt when it’s really warm. I even had a smoked chicken in the fridge and fresh ricotta that needed to be used up. Herbs are growing in the garden.
Reason 2: Mother’s Day isn’t really for mothers when we have to cook, Cobb salad comes together easily with cold make ahead ingredients, that can be assembled quickly. Hard boil a couple of eggs, fry up some bacon, and chop some veggies the night before. The next day assemble your salad.
Reason 3: Grumpy Granny inspired me with her choice of Culinary Smackdown guidelines – May is salad month. This may not be not be my entry, but it started me thinking about salads.
Reason 4: It’s a really tasty salad with all of the good stuff in it, so you won’t feel guilty eating it. When everyone brings the macaroni and potato salad, yours will be the less guilty choice. Then you can have dessert too – like a strawberry pie.
Reason 5: It’s really pretty, and makes a great impression. Lining the meat, veggies and cheese up in nice rows on top of the salad greens, then sprinkling with herbs, makes for a really stunning presentation especially next to potato salad.
- Salad greens – romaine, green oak lettuce, red oak lettuce torn
- 1 Red Sweet pepper diced
- 2 Medium Tomatoes diced
- 3 hard boiled eggs
- 4 slices bacon
- ½ small smoked chicken
- ½ cup fresh sheep ricotta cheese
- Chive flowers
- Rinse and spin greens layering the bottom of a serving dish.
- Using the rest of the ingredients, layer them in rows.
- Sprinkle herbs over top.
- Let people serve themselves – but watch out for my son, he tries to grab all of the chicken row in one serving.
Since we spent a decadent food filled couple of nights away, tonight’s dinner is vegetable laden and light. The golden beets are so pretty, especially after roasting. I also roasted carrots and fennel in olive oil, and sprinkling it with the juice of a blood orange, slicing all the veggies with a mandolin for use in the salad. I used three different greens – Romaine, red oak leaf lettuce, and my son’s recent favorite – arugula. Then I sliced in some blood orange pulp, plus sprinkled feta, fennel fronds and walnuts over top. The dressing was a simple squeeze of blood orange juice over top with some thyme olive oil. A simple salad – not overly crunchy since the veggies were roasted, but with a little caramelized soft sweetness. Very yummy salad, and just what I needed after a couple of nights away. It’s tough to find the fennel in the photo of the salad, but it was there with great licoricey bites every so often.
- 1 golden beet, greens removed.
- 2 medium carrots
- 1 Fennel stalk
- Olive Oil
- Salad greens (romaine, arugula, and red oak leaf lettuce)
- Feta cheese
- roasted chopped walnuts
- fennel fronds
- blood orange juice and pulp
- Place golden beet, carrots and fennel in a glass pan, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast, sprinkling with orange juice about halfway through.
- Clean and tear up and drain lettuce greens.
- When the vegetables are done roasting, using a mandolin, slice them into bite size pieces.
- Toss on top of greens. Add fennel fronds, feta, walnuts.
- Using a knife, cut out the orange pulp. Squeeze juice over top and sprinkle with thyme olive oil.
You knew I was going to do something with that kumquat ginger syrup didn’t you? I made another chicken roast, with a side of winter vegetables and a really cool tasty Apple-Cabbage Slaw with Kumquat Dressing. A little sweet, a little vinegary, but all good. In fact, my daughter ate it and then stopped and said – “Wait, this is slaw, you tricked me.” I asked if she liked it and she said she did, but it was still slaw.
We had a full house – both of the kids were home and the fiancee was at dinner too, so I brought out the leftover kumquats for a tasting. My daughter died laughing over the name and then refused at first to eat it. She wanted to peel the skin which I said was the best part. My son and the fiance popped them in their mouths without a second thought, but my daughter really had to get herself ready. Then she was fine until the tart juice squirted in her mouth making her pucker. Later I thanked her for being adventurous – it’s fun to try something new, don’t you think?
My husband and I picked up apples from a grower’s warehouse with plans to make applesauce. They were only open one day until 3:00. My husband got off work at 2, but I lost my keys and wasn’t able to get to him until 2:25. We made it with about ten minutes to spare, but people were still showing up when we were done. I took advantage of the overflowing apple baskets in the diningroom to create a slaw that is pretty fresh. I have a mandolin, and so took a hunk of green cabbage and shaved the cabbage down. I also took thin hunks of apples and then shaved them too. I made the dressing using some of the candied kumquats, the kumquat simple syrup and whisked it with some orange flavored oil and white wine vinegar. It’s a fresh light salad – but as my daughter says -”It’s Slaw!”
- 1 tbs candied kumquats
- 1 tbs kumquat syrup
- 1 tbs white wine vinegar
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs candied kumquats
- 1 tbs kumquat syrup
- 1 tbs white wine vinegar
- 3 tbs olive oil
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients.Drizzle over salad, lightly.
- Toss the salad ingredients and the dressing together.
Today was the second time I bought this salad from work. As I was going through the line, the cashier asked me why they put the green stuff on the watermelon. I told her it was cilantro and I thought it was tasty. She obviously disagreed.
I’m not a cilantro fan, but watermelon as a salad with a little heat is actually yummy.
The ingredient list is easy:
Chunks of watermelon – bite size
Jalapeno – diced really itty bitty
Red Onion – diced really small
Toss and serve.
We were invited to my brother in law’s for a small family cookout, and I wanted to throw together something cool and delicious for a side dish. We bought melons and blackberries at our local farmer’s market. The mint is something my daughter and I have been trying to cultivate in our garden. Mint can get out of control easily, so we’re planting patches of mint down at the bottom of the legs of our deck. It can go out of control all it wants down there. We have one mint plant my husband mowed totally down to the nub and after it grew back, then my son scalped it with the weed whacker and it’s back again. I need hardy plants with the two of them around because they can’t tell the difference between weeds and herbs. I am loving all the different things I can put mint into, it’s so tasty. (more…)Diana
My Beet, Feta and Spelt Salad was my favorite of the two salads (the other was a pasta salad with peas, lamb mint sausage and a dill mint pesto) that we brought to the 3rd of July family gathering. It’s a potluck and I try to bring something new to the table, to make it interesting. Of course the young boys wouldn’t touch it, because it was healthy looking, and an aunt said she didn’t eat beets because they taste like dirt. I say earthy – she says dirt. Her husband liked it, and so did my family. I made a pretty big batch, so we had leftovers for breakfast and then some for dinner again. I also left a small bowl behind for my daughter because she had to work and wasn’t able to go with us. Feel free to cut down on amounts, I was cooking for a potluck, and had plenty of leftovers for us, which I wanted by the way – so I didn’t need to cook on the 4th. This is great for dinner, but I brought out the leftovers for breakfast and it went over well then too.
Spelt berry is similar to faro – or wheat berry. I intended to buy faro, but the shopkeeper told me I could have faro, or a more locally produced spelt which is similar. The spelt came from Stutzman Farms in Millersburg, which is not too, too far from me but I bought mine at the Greener Grocer. I seem to have a lot of their products in my home, I didn’t even realize it until today. Roasted beets are new to our family this year, and yes they have a very earthy taste, but I am enjoying it. I added basil and parsley from the garden, that was a suggestion from my daughter, who is getting into trying to figure out what herbs to use in our recipes. Feta seemed like a really good choice crumbled into the salad, though wait until it is cool, or it will be melted feta. I also threw in dried cranberries and chopped walnuts, plus don’t tell my husband but some itty bitty minced shallots.
This is a really delicious, healthy salad. Made ahead, you can portion it out for lunches or breakfast because it travels well in a covered bowl. It will also make a great side dish, or main dish for dinner. Best of all, it’s a quick fix with lots of chopping and a little bit of cooking. You make ahead and set to cool in the fridge.
I did roast my beets in the oven, but you can try the toaster oven, microwave or stove top if it’s too warm – today at 95 would be too warm.
The method I used to cook spelt was kind of a risotto method. I added the same amount of water as there was spelt, and heated in the microwave in a glass measuring cup more water. I slowly cooked out the water in the pot with the spelt, and then added a ladleful of warm water. I continued this way until the berries were almost the correct consistency and then I pulled the pot off the heat and allowed it to finish absorbing the water left in the pot. The berries were nice and chewy, not mushy, and not hard.
For the beets, I placed them into a glass bowl with a little water and cooked them until they were soft enough to chewy. Then you peel the skin off and dice. The walnuts I chopped with a knife, and also the basil and parsely.
Beet Feta & Spelt Berry Salad
- 2 cups spelt berries (before cooking)
- 5 or 6 roasted beets, peeled and chopped
- 2 handfuls of basil chopped
- 1/2 handful of parsley chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 cup of dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup crumbled Feta
Toss it all together, serve with a bottle of strawberry vinaigrette – my daughter used balsamic, but redwine or raspberry would work well also.
- 4 oz Strawberry Vinegar
- 2 oz olive oil
- salt/pepper/chopped basil leaves.
Shake well before serving.Diana
Recently, we were discussing breakfast. It came out that one person ate her breakfast as a salad. She cooked up her eggs and bacon, and ate it over salad. Well, here we were a week later, and out of bread, rolls, wrap, pita, etc. I thought, well, what the heck – let’s try breakfast as salad, because well, heck it’s salad season. So I cooked up my breakfast and put it over some nice greens with avocado, and salsa. The salsa is difficult to see under the egg, but it’s there. I really enjoyed my breakfast this way though I will let my salsa warm up a little first next time. Really cold salsa with warm eggs is too much of a temperature difference. A zap in the microwave or letting it come to room temp would be a little better.
- Salad Greens
- Home made Salsa
- Miscellaneous Herbs
Prepare your eggs and Pancetta in your favorite way. Create a salad and place the cooked eggs and pancetta on top. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and herbs. Enjoy!