The holidays can be a difficult period, what with the unending parade of dense and rich foods. I desperately needed a break from it yesterday. I started removing cans from the pantry and rummaging through the refrigerator and this is what I came up with. I will just call it a warm pasta salad. It is fresh and full of convenient and easy to prepare vegetables. The bottom line is that you chop up some veggies and toss them in the warm pot out of which you just poured the boiling pasta. Thus, it is a bit warm, but not hot. It has a simple lemon vinaigrette and is topped with feta. I bet you have already thought of a million ways to bend this salad to your will. Add tuna or some leftover turkey to make it a little more substantial.
So start a pot to boil, and get ready to do a little chopping. A few easy meals like this and you may be ready for some for more holiday feasts before you know it. Save the leftovers in the fridge for an easy lunch.
1 medium carrot, peeled and julienned
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 cup baby spinach leaves, cut into thin slices
1 stalk celery, diced
¼ teaspoon lemon zest
½ pound farfalle pasta
¼ cup lemon juice
⅔ cup grapeseed oil (or olive oil)
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon sugar
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
1. Boil pasta in a pot of boiling water for 11 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the carrot, artichoke hearts, spinach and celery. Zest a bit of the lemon before cutting it to juice it for the dressing. (I often forget to zest before I halve my lemon and there is nothing more annoying than trying to zest a cut lemon.)
2. Mix the lemon juice and oil in a bowl with the salt and pepper and whisk to combine.
3. Drain the pasta through a colander. While the pasta drains, place the beans, and all of the remaining ingredients, except the dressing and feta in the empty (hot) stock pot. Mix in the drained pasta and half of the dressing. Stir to combine the ingredients thoroughly. Taste and add more dressing, as needed.
4. Season with additional salt and pepper. Pour the warm salad onto a serving platter and top with the crumbled feta. Serve immediately with garlic bread.
Note: Julienne is a very loose term here. Generally, cut them into long and skinny bits. No cooking school teacher in the world would call the cuts I made to that poor carrot “julienne.” It is just the nearest descriptive term. Don’t get hung up on perfect carrots as it utterly defeats the point of such a simple throw-down meal. Also, you should be happy to know that I have confirmed, yet again, that julienne is not only a noun, but a verb. What I did to my spinach might loosely be called “chiffonade” but this is hardly the time or place to get all technical. We are tired…just cause it to be smaller.
Also, while a classic vinaigrette has a 3:1 oil to acid ratio, I rarely fall right on the mark. But, know that when you are putting together a dressing, you really need no recipe…just shoot for that general ratio of oil to acid (citrus, vinegar, or a combination) and then start tasting. Depending on the quality and unique attributes of the ingredients you are using, adjustments will be in order. Just have a little fun with it and customize ’til your heart is content.