A Different Kind of Pasta Salad

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To give everyone a quick respite from tales of Austin, here is a nice Summer recipe. More BBQ tales soon.

This refreshing Mediterranean-style pasta salad works as either a side dish or a full meal and is very wine friendly. It can be eaten cold, room temperature, or hot. I rarely make vegetarian dishes, but this is one that tastes so good no one will notice that there is no meat in it. Besides, I know that I have at least one vegetarian friend who reads this, so this can be my token recipe nod to him. I promise that it won’t happen often, though.

Ingredients:
1 box of ziti pasta (I usually use whole wheat)
1 bunch of fresh curly parsley (stems removed, finely chopped and divided into 3rds)
5 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1 large shallot (chopped)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 lemon (both juice and zest)
1 8 oz jar of artichoke hearts ( drained and rough chopped)
1 can of chickpeas (drained)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 lb feta cheese (cut into small cubes)

Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than the shortest time stated on the box’s cooking instructions to ensure proper texture. Drain and rinse with cold water until pasta is cool to the touch. Place a large, high sided skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is good and hot add the olive oil and reduce heat to med-low. There should be enough oil to thickly cover the bottom of the pan, if not, add a little more. Once the oil is up to temperature stir in the garlic, shallots, and pepper flakes. Stir often and watch closely to make sure that no color is being imparted to the garlic or shallots. A burnt taste from either will ruin this dish. Think of these ingredients as being boiled in the olive oil more than being fried. If necessary, reduce the heat. Cook for 2 minutes.

Add the can of chickpeas and stir. Allow the chickpeas to cook for another 2 minutes so that they absorb the flavors from the oil. Stir in both the artichoke hearts and the chicken stock. Wait about 30 seconds and then add the lemon zest and the first 1/3 of the parsley. Stir well, and then add the pasta, and mix well again. Grind on some pepper to taste, stir again, and add the second 1/3 of the parsley and stir some more. Now stir in the lemon juice and then the cheese. Continue to stir until all of the ingredients are nice and warm and the cheese begins to melt slightly and stolen taste ensures that it is warm and creamy throughout. Stir in the remaining parsley and serve hot, room temperature, or refrigerate.

I made this the other day and ate it hot out of the pan for dinner, then later cooled off with a nice Pinot Gris, and then again right out of the fridge for lunch the next day. It tasted great all three ways, with each being quite different.

This recipe can be used as a starting point for a lot of variations. Add some grilled chicken for a heartier meal, or some fresh mint or thyme. I suggest a nice crisp white wine with this, but it could easily be paired with a nice Pinot Noir, as well.

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