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an indian summer salad

Once mid-August comes, it’s safe to say that most Americans are sweating bullets. Hot temperatures, rising humidity, and smelly sewers are common gripes throughout the country. The weather in Northern California is insane. Seriously. For instance, last week we were enjoying beautiful 80-degree-weather. Now, we are stuck in the gross 100-degree-heat. So while I was baking up a storm weeks ago, I now have fled my kitchen. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t been eating well.

After suffering through some more snack-like dinners (hello, Trader Joe’s Tandoori Naan bread with feta and hummus), I decided to start working on some salads. If you have ready any of my previous posts, you know that I love all Mediterranean food because it is full of flavor without being too heavy. I have always loved Tabouleh salad and a deli around the corner from my college serves an Orzo Pasta Salad I am dying to recreate. These cold salads are especially appetizing when you are sweating profusely and refuse to turn on the stove. A quick boil for the pasta and a fast homemade dressing go a long way.

After looking through my pantry, I decided to use some leftover pasta packages and roast the fresh vegetables I got at the farmers market. In the end, I made this deliciously easy and fresh pasta salad and took it with me to the beach over the weekend. Roasted eggplant, fresh tomatoes, and frozen green beans all come together with whatever pasta you have on hand. I used a mixture of bowtie and penne because I’m crazy and like all those different shapes. I know, ADD eating at its finest, right? To quicken the cooking time, I boiled the frozen green beans with the pasta. If you want to use a different vegetable, why not try frozen broccoli or peas? In regards to the broccoli, use smaller florets that way everything is bite-sized and the broccoli doesn’t overpower the rest of the dish. You can use fresh squash if you’d like. Don’t boil them though; that would be weird and pointless.

Anyways, I made a simple dressing of white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil, lightly salted and seasoned with pepper. After combining all the ingredients, I let the salad chill together overnight, and once the pasta and vegetables marinated together, I had one fine meal. While everyone at the beach was downing pizza and beer, I was eating a refreshing pasta salad that looked like it came from an overpriced deli. Paired with my iced tea, and gorgeous blue sky, and the sound of the crashing waves, I was in my own ocean heaven.

To kick this dish up a notch, upon serving, I spooned hummus and Trader- Joe’s cilantro and yogurt dip on top of the dish. The smooth yogurt and rough hummus added nice texture to the pasta salad. Of course, I grilled the Tandoori Naan bread and used it to scoop up the leftover veggies. Eating this salad, I felt like I was on the gorgeous beaches in Greece or in the south of France. One day soon, I will find myself there. Until then, I will settle for California’s beaches and this tasty pasta salad.

Mediteranean Pasta Salad
Printable Recipe
Yield: Makes 6 side dishes, 4 main courses
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes + 25 for roasting

Ingredients:
● 1 1/2 lb. eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
● 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
● 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for roasting eggplant
● 3 tsp. salt
● 2 tsp. black pepper
● 1 12 ounce can diced tomato, no sodium added
● 1 12-ounce box pasta, (I used bowtie and penne)
● 7 ounces frozen green beans, (use any frozen vegetable you’d like)
● 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese, plus more for garnish

Directions:
Roast eggplant:
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 425°F.

Toss eggplant with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl, then spread in 2 oiled large shallow (1-inch-deep) baking pans. Roast, stirring occasionally and switching position of pans halfway through baking, until vegetables are golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes total.

Make dressing and assemble salad:
Whisk together vinegar, two teaspoons of salt, and one teaspoon pepper, and 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cook pasta and frozen green beans in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; rinse with cold water and drain again. Transfer pasta to large bowl. Add in can of tomatoes. Add one teaspoon of salt and one teaspoon of pepper; stir to combine. Toss in roasted eggplant. Pour dressing over and toss to coat. Finally, add crumbled feta. Serve.

Salad can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Return to room temperature before serving.

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August 16, 2009 - 7:37 pm

Linda - Damn that looks delicious!

August 16, 2009 - 8:18 pm

Emily - Well, that looks great. But I refuse to admit we’re approaching Indian Summer. That would mean that school is starting soon (as it is, in fact). Holding on to my happy denial, though.

August 16, 2009 - 8:27 pm

snooky doodle - This salad looks delicious. I love Mediterranean food. Hey I live in the Mediteranean ha ha :)

August 17, 2009 - 4:42 am

jenny - does white balsamic vinegar taste similar to regular, dark balsamic vinegar? i love the latter, but i’ve never tried white.

and your salad looks fabulous =).

August 17, 2009 - 6:36 am

Lindsey - That looks really good. We unfortunately have barely even HAD a summer, so I’m not allowed to complain about the heat wave that finally has hit. But that’s what central air is for, being able to cook and bake in the summer!

August 18, 2009 - 9:03 am

Jackie at PhamFatale.com - What gorgeous photos! I especially love how you put all the elements in the last picture.

I agree with you, serving pasta salad is so much more flavorful when served at room temperature.

Check my version with orzo at http://www.phamfatale.com/id_188/title_Vegetarian-Orzo-Pasta-Salad/

August 19, 2009 - 1:40 am

syrie - lovely indeed. Just my kind of perfect dinner.

August 19, 2009 - 7:25 am

mieletcannelle - yum, this looks delish! and we don’t even have warm weather.. ;-)

August 20, 2009 - 2:07 pm

Danielle - This looks lovely!
Going to have to try it out someday!

August 23, 2009 - 1:46 pm

Dave - This is a must try. I’m not too familiar with indian foods, but you map out the recipe really well and I’m excited to make it for myself :). I actually work with a program called Chef’s Diet. We prepare healthy, well balanced meals for those that might not have time to shop for and prepare foods themselves, and then deliver the meals to their door! We even have dietary plans for those with certain needs, such as low sugar and gluten free foods. If anyone is interested, visit us at http://www.mychefsdiet.com for more information!

August 25, 2009 - 10:07 am

Sam@BingeNYC - I love all the veggies in your pasta! This looks so good!

August 25, 2009 - 2:16 pm

mmhuynh - Such a simple recipe but it sounds so goood! It would be perfect to take to school haha

August 27, 2009 - 2:09 pm

puzzled - How much zucchini?? The recipe says to roast it with the egg plant but it is not listed with the ingredients. Thx.

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