Monday, July 30, 2012

Greek Pasta Salad

Summer days are quickly drifting away.  I have no idea why time has to fly by so quickly when the weather is beautiful and there is so much outdoor activity.  Before we know it, the freezing winds will be chilling us to the bone and Paul will be cursing every morning while struggling to shovel snow from the uneven cement of our driveway.  And I will probably be craving lots of pumpkin flavored sweets.

But for now, it is still summer.

This pasta salad is the perfect summer picnic dish.  It travels well, is packed full of veggies, has a lot less oil than your average pasta salad, and features all of my favorite Mediterranean flavors!  Plus, it can be made up to two days ahead of time!  Pretty sweet.  I have already made it twice in the past two weeks.  Paul and I even ate the leftovers as our main course for dinner for a couple days.  Neither of us complained - this is delicious stuff!

Greek Pasta Salad
adapted from Cook's Illustrated

For the Dressing:
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice from 2 lemons
1 medium shallot , minced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

For the Salad:
1 pound rotini pasta
1-2 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and diced
8 ounces crumbled feta cheese (about 2 cups)
1 cup pitted kalamata olives (about 6 ounces), chopped coarse
½ cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1 pint cherry tomatoes (about 12 ounces), quartered

For the dressing: Whisk all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl; set aside.
For the salad: Bring 4 quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Stir in 2 tablespoons salt and the pasta and cook until completely tender. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta in a colander. Transfer the hot pasta to a large bowl.

Stir the reserved pasta water into the dressing. Pour half of the dressing over the pasta and toss to coat. Stir in the carrots, bell pepper, feta, olives, and parsley. Scatter the tomatoes on top of the pasta (do not mix in).

To Store: Cover the pasta salad tightly with plastic wrap and poke several vent holes. Transfer the remaining dressing to an airtight container. Refrigerate the pasta salad and reserved dressing separately for up to 2 days.

To Serve: Microwave the pasta salad on high power to remove the chill, 1 to 2 minutes. Shake the reserved dressing to recombine, then pour half of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Add the remaining dressing as needed to keep the salad moist.

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