Pasta Salad Preview: Pastazanella (First in a 3-part series)

Panzanella (Italian Tomato-Cucumber Salad)

Panzanella (Italian Tomato-Cucumber-Bread Salad)

You’ve heard of panzanella, right? That oh so delicious  salad celebrating tomatoes when they’re bursting on the vines–even more handy to have in your recipe repertoire  when you’ve a loaf of slightly stale Artisan bread that’s begging to be utilized? But what about Pastazanella?

I just made a big batch, and I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard of that. Pastazanella is a recipe that has–up until this moment–never been recorded,  a dish even unknown to the ubiquitous  Google-bots. It’s like discovering a new star in the solar system!

These three new small pasta shapes are ideal for entertaining.

Wish I could lay fame to the pasta, as well, but credit goes to Al Dente Pasta, which has a new line of 3 Piccolo Pastas. The Bonnetti (little bonnets) is what I substituted for the bread in my Pastazanella that yields absolutely delicious results.

Cut tomatoes and cucumbers into pieces roughly the size of the “bonnets”.

Traditional panzanella is delish hot off the press. But after it sits around, the bread–even with a prior toasting– gets a bit mushy for my palate. It reminds me of the milk toast  forced down me when I had a tummy ache as a tot. Not so Bonnetti, the perfect choice for Pastazanella after cooking the pasta five minutes to perfection.

Today requests a salad for a family reunion that will serve as a side for smoked chickens, and  thrive under an August sun. The Bonnetti will soak up those yummy tomato juices and the acidity (and lack of mayo)  keeps it “safe” insuring even the weeist of  toddlers won’t suffer.

This new line of Piccola Pasta makes for attractive, toothsome salads that are easy for guests to scoop from the bowl. (So annoying  when  those dangling slivers of fettuccines and spaghettis find their way to the floor, instead of the plate.)

Disclosure: Monique and hubby Denny (the owners of Al Dente) have been friends of mine for decades. We got into the pasta business at the same time. In fact, the EXACT same time–1981. She was rolling out sheets of dough uptown at the same time I was extruding them downtown from a pasta machine the size of a Fiat I purchased from Florence. (That’s Florence, Italy, not Alabama). I can vouch that Al Dente Pasta is a delicate yet toothsome pasta like no other on the market–I use it all the time.

I sold my pasta machine along with my business in 2001 (I needed to sit down) and started writing about food–making up characters who were  having even crazier times in the food business than myself. Besides. I was not nearly as successful as the Al Dente folks, whose pastas can be found in groceries and markets across the planet. An additional disclosure– I don’t get paid for writing  food endorsements  I don’t even allow ads and those annoying pop-ups to come near these pages. I just like writing about good food and the good people who enjoy eating it.

Note: After reading this blog my son said a better name for this recipe would be Paztenella. Alas. I just checked and Google  laid stakes into Pastazenella, claiming it as her own.

Have a safe and joyous Labor Day!       Peggy

Recipe: Pastazanella

Ingredients

  • 3 cups (uncooked) Al Dente Bonnetti Pasta
  •  2 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1  teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 3 heaping cups of 1/2-inch pieces ripe tomato (1-2 large tomatoes)
  • 2 cups of 1/2-inch pieces seeded cucumber (1 cucumber)
  • 1 (packed) cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup diced red onion
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, as desired
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, as desired
  • 2 tablespoon capers

Instructions

  1. In rapidly boiling, salted water, cook pasta for 5 minutes. Drain and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.
  2. Whisk remaining olive oil, vinegar and garlic together.
  3. Toss pasta into vinaigrette and stir in tomato, cucumbers, basil and onion. Season to taste with Parmesan, salt and pepper. Let pasta salad sit 30 minutes, or so, for the flavors to combine. Sprinkle capers over top before serving.

Cooking & Prep time: 30 minutes (plus time to let the pasta sit)

Number of servings (yield): 4-6 servings (8 packed cups)

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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My Secret Weapon Flavor Bomb for Savory, Summery Vinaigrettes

Last night we had friends over for a Fourth of July warm-up dinner party. The hyper-local menu–Grilled Sumac Lamb Chops, Cherry Couscous Salad and Asparagus–was created with the bulk of ingredients sourced in a one-mile radius; easy to pull off at this time of the year in the orchards and farmlands of Northern Michigan.

Concentrated cherry juice processed from cherries up the road lends the acidity and sweet to this versatile vinaigrette.

The day before yesterday, I marinated lamb chops 24 hours (refrigerated) in a mixture of whole milk, plain yogurt, garlic, ground sumac and cinnamon. (I’ll post the recipe after re-proof.)

Then, I made a couscous salad and am particularly excited about the impromptu vinaigrette, which was simply delicious.  My secret weapon was cherry juice concentrate. With the acidity and sweet of fresh ripe cherries, it was a flavor bomb  in this salad. (Recipe below.)

This vinaigrette would be marvelous in any grain or leafy green salad or a lovely marinade for fowl, pork or lamb.  Oh my. This little vinaigrette is an absolute gem.

Fresh Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

Fresh Cherry and Goat Cheese Crostini

You don’t have to live in the middle of a cherry orchard–grocery stores across the world carry cherry juice concentrates.  Here’s a link to King Orchards, if interested, to purchase the exact concentrate I use. (And no. Uncle Jim and Aunt Sue aren’t the owners and, as always, I receive no compensations for my posts and recommendations on this site, which remains blissfully “ad-free”.)

The Fourth of July Grill

The Fourth of July Grill

In the spirit of the season, here are some more cherry-inspired blogs from seasons past to whet your whistle, many of which are perfect for the celebratory Fourth:

Fresh Cherry Goat Cheese CrostiniCherry GazpachoSmoked Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Sauce.

 

Explosively Delicious Recipes

Have a happy and safe Fourth, my friends! Some more non-cherry inspired ideas for the holidays: Firecracker Shrimp Firecracker Flank Steak with Margarita FlavorsFourth of July Sheet Cake.

Recipe: Fresh Cherry Couscous Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons minced shallot
  • 2 tablespoons concentrated cherry juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/3 cup nut oil, such as pistachio, walnut or peanut
  • 1 1/4 cups dry (uncooked) couscous
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • 1 cup quartered fresh pitted cherries (or 1/2 cup dried cherries)
  • 1 cup quartered fresh pitted apricots (or 1/2 cup dried apricots, sliced)
  • 1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted
  • ½ cup chopped fresh mint

Instructions

  1. Soak shallot in cherry concentrate and orange juice ten minutes. Make a dressing by whisking oil into shallot/juice mixture.
  2. Cook couscous according to package instructions. (I used chicken stock instead of salted water.)
  3. Toss dressing into warm couscous. Season to taste with kosher salt and a pinch of cayenne. Toss cherries and apricots into salad. (May be made, at this point, up to 24 hours in advance.)
  4. Before serving, stir in pistachios and mint.

Total time: 25 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 4-6 SERVINGS

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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Sweet Pea-Quinoa Fritters

Last week was a mother to digest. First the beloved fashion designer Kate Spade? And what’s to become of the global food scene without Anthony Bourdin to direct traffic? The man with such caustic, biting brilliance who had such a rich appetite for life? No one could even begin to replace this most empathetic of spokespersons for the world’s people, their food and their culture.

Streets of Hanoi.

His most recent documentary series, “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” premiered in 2013. It won five Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award and, for this Bourdain groupie (who  recently spent ten days in Hanoi delighting in the street food scene because her guru led the way), the documentary was aptly named. Parts unknown, indeed, Anthony Bourdain. Shattering.

But back to the happiness that cooking can conjure.  As Bourdain famously wrote in Kitchen Confidential: “Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” I bought into that maxim many, many years ago.

And when I returned to the South for a family reunion last mongh–when the skillets started sizzling and my tongue begged loosening–I welcomed the grease flowing through my veins and bourbon burnishing my soul. Classic Southern soul-food and beverage don’t conjure notions of mindful moderation and stoic sobriety.

Smoked Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

And I didn’t stop there. After returning to Michigan, Memorial Day rolled around. Sure. I could have made some summery salads and lean grilled meats but the caravan wasn’t stopping. On a fat-lovin high, I was livin’ in the moment, adding that extra tablespoon of mayo to make that tater salad just right and sucking fatty ribs from the bone.

“Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit,” Bourdain wrote in “Kitchen Confidential,” and went on to describe vegans as  vegetarians’ “Hezbollah-like splinter faction.” He threw political correctness out of the kitchen with every breath he drew and that, in part, is why this woman loves him.

His writings have always invited reflection into the USA’s love/hate relationship with food and have inspired my culinary musings and practices for decades. The word diet, for example, to me means denial.  Just that one, four-letter word sets off  cravings for fried foods, buttery breads and creme brûlée. It’s not in my vocabulary.

So it follows I’m not beating myself up for the excess baggage I packed around my midriff in the past month. Just sayin’ I’m feeling sluggish and the word––reboot–– is a part of my vocabulary.

The following bean fritter recipe is Vegan, part of the Hezbollah-like splinter faction of recipes (-:  Lucky for me, I find veggie recipes an amusement park for my body, just as I do a well-marbled rib-eye.

Potato, Radish and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Potato, Radish and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing

Here  are some other recipes I intend to shuffle (until the Fourth of July when I’ve got some brisket and fatty-laced fixings planned). Quinoa with Black Beans, Avocado and Corn,  Curried Couscous-Lentil Salad with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Lemony Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Crunchy Vegetables, Quinao Salad with Shrimp and Eggplant, Potato, Radish and Cucumber Salad with Yogurt Dressing, Roasted Broccoli and Farro Salad with Feta.

Pork Belly Tacos

Pork Belly Tacos

To balance the scales with all of these rosy-cheeked recipes, allow me to present a recipe for Pork Belly Tacos.

It’s in respect and reverence of the man who taught us so much about our world’s people and cultures who, in the end, chose to leave us behind.

 

 

Recipe: Sweet Pea-Quinoa Fritters

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-firm silken tofu
  • 2 tablespoons white, all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 1/3 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup snipped chives, plus chive blossoms for garnish, if available
  • Grapeseed or olive oil, as needed
  • Your choice of toppings such as chopped tomatoes, lemony yogurt or smashed avocado

Instructions

  1. Process tofu and flour until smooth. Add cumin, garlic, quinoa, peas, snipped chives and pulse until combined. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2-3 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Shape pea mixture into 4 patties. (They will firm up as they cook.) Add patties to skillet and cook until browned on bottom, 6-9 minutes. Adjust heat so the patties cook but do not burn. When fritters have browned on bottom, with a spatula, carefully turn and cook until nicely browned on both sides.
  3. Serve with desired topping.

Time to Make (after quinoa is cooked and peas are thawed): 5 minutes

Time to Cook: apx. 15 minutes

Number of servings (yield): 2 SERVINGS

Copyright © Peggy Lampman’s dinnerFeed.

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