Over the past week or so we have been experiencing some serious heat and humidity. Has summer come a little earlier this year? If you are like me, when it is extra warm I want to use the stove as little as possible and not even go near the oven. Of course, come lunch or dinner time you do want something substantial, and pasta salads sometimes do the trick for me. Light, but with a little gumption.
Pasta makes a great base for a meal. It is cheap, feeds many and is universally loved. I have done articles on pasta before, and hands down, pasta meals are the most popular requests, I receive. Despite the stereotype of Jamaicans only loving "hard food" and rice, the numerous requests for pasta recipes indicate this is untrue. Jamaicans love pasta too!
Due to the versatility of pasta types, choices and multiple combinations are endless. You can add meat, seafood, cheese and vegetables, herbs, nuts and your preferred dressings or vinaigrette to match the ingredients used. Pasta swells while cooking, so pasta salads are great for large groups — at a potluck, picnic or BBQ. Just take all the ingredients you have and assemble your salad on location so it won't get soggy, especially if it has a dressing. If the flavourings need to meld, however, prepare one hour in advance, keep chilled, and eat as soon as you get to your destination.
Pasta comes in different shapes and colours so your salad can be visually appealing. On the market we are now seeing corn-, rice- and spinach-based pastas, so those folks with wheat intolerance or coeliac disease will not be left out of the fun. For the diet-conscious there are wholewheat and wholegrain versions and those with extra nutrients.
Asian-Style Noodle Salad
This is a lovely Asian-style flavoured salad using cold noodles instead of pasta (they are culinary cousins). Garnish with your favourite nuts for a punch of protein and added crunch.
1 pack of egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
1 carrot, julienned
Handful of string beans, diced
1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets
2 celery stalks, cut into strips
1 sweet pepper, deseeded and cut into strips
4 escallion stalks, green part only, finely chopped Bean sprouts (optional) Roasted salted peanuts (garnish) Dressing: 2 tbsps rice wine vinegar 3 tbsps soy sauce
1 tbsp hoisin sauce 1 tsp chilli garlic sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
4 tbsps olive oil
Method: Cool cooked noodles in an ice bath and then drain to dry.
Mix dressing ingredients together.
In a large bowl add all of the cut vegetables, the cold noodles and pour over the dressing.
Mix to combine, then divide into 4 bowls.
Garnish with beans sprouts and nuts of your choice.
Pasta Salad with Roast Chicken, Pesto and Tomatoes
This hearty pasta salad makes use of leftover roast chicken. Pesto is the delicious pasta blend of basil, Parmesan and pine nuts and makes a delicious herbal and fresh coating for this dish.
1 pack of pasta, your preferred shape, cooked according to package directions
Leftover roast chicken, skin and bones removed, torn to pieces
200g/ 1 cup of pesto
1 or 2 large salad tomatoes, cubed
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
Black olives, sliced
Chopped parsley for garnish
Drain and cool down the cooked pasta and when fully cooled add to a large bowl.
Add chicken pieces, tomatoes, red onion and olives and mix with the pasta.
Next pour over the pesto and stir to combine.
Add mixed parsley.
Divide into four plates and serve.
You can add extra Parmesan and freshly cracked black pepper to finished dish.
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