Friday, July 1, 2011

Crazy Salad

For tomorrow's summer BBQ at my friend Sonia's house, I am making a pasta salad, ham and cucumber wraps and pico de gallo.

Today I'd like to talk about the salad. I need help. This makes an obscene amount of salad... I keep telling myself that "next time" I will make less, but somehow I never do. I must be crazy to be making this much pasta salad.

This is also quite possibly the most expensive pasta salad on earth - at least considering it's one that does not use specialty ingredients like say...truffle oil or lobster, or things you have to go to a specialty store to obtain. It does make a large quantity, but even considering that it's still on the upper end of cost for potluck bbq foods.... As a result, I make it maybe once or twice a year. The salad is appealing, both visually and to the pallet, unless of course you don't like pasta salad, in which case, we need to re-evaluate our friendship. If you don't like pasta salad though, this one might change your mind. For the sake of our friendship, just try it...

One thing I've never liked about most pasta salads is that they use mayonnaise or oils as the basis of the dressing. Don't get me wrong, I like mayo - on sandwiches, in potato salads and of course to make ranch dressing among other things. Oil is ok too, but not here.

When it comes to pasta salad, I like things with a lot more flavor and texture than what is typically found. This salad can also become a full meal with the addition of some diced ham or even some chicken, or as is for those of you who are averse to meat in things (like your stomach). To make my pasta salad you'll need the following - and be warned - this makes a HUGE amount of salad (Beth said she thinks 20 lbs) so feel free to cut it in half or even in quarters... or take it to a BBQ where there are lots of hungry people. Other than that, you'll have to resign yourself to eating it for every meal for the next week straight....

You'll Need:
4 12oz packages Rainbow Rotinni
4 12oz bottles Johnny's Jamaican Mistake dressing
2 8oz cans cut baby corn.
2 3.8oz cans sliced olives
2 5oz cans sliced water chestnuts
4 6.5oz jars marinated artichoke hearts, these come "quartered" and we'll cut them in half again
2 English cucumbers, diced (no need to peel these!)
3 4oz containers crumbled tomato and basil feta.
8 "mini" bell peppers - you can use your choice of colors. You can also use full size ones. In that case you'll probably only need one or 1 1/2
4 Roma tomatoes - find large ones, or use more smaller ones, dice and remove all the seeds (slime as Beth calls it)
1 large red onion, diced

Boil the pasta until just cooked - don't overcook it or you'll be sorry. You're shooting for "al dente" texture here. If you aren't sure what that means, simply remove the pasta from the heat before it's completely tender. If you test it and think it needs another couple of minutes, it's time to stop cooking it. Drain and run under cold water until it's no longer warm - you want to keep it from cooking further. Four bags of pasta fills two collanders.

It really is pretty stuff. I use the "rainbow" rotini because it adds nice color to the salad.

Once it's cooled, find a huge bowl, preferrably one with an air tight lid. Place all the pasta in the bowl and add in two bottles of the dressing.

Make sure you lick the little paper seal that comes off the dressing from under the lid... It's sort of a sweet, tangy dressing. Add a little water to each bottle and swish it around - you want to make sure you get all the goodness from the bottle as well as add just a little extra liquid. I don't know about you but I really can't stand a dry pasta salad. Place the lid on the bowl and send the pasta to the refrigerator to think about what it's doing. It needs to repent for a while with the dressing.

Find another large container and put all the veggies in it. Realize that your "large" container is not large enough and find something bigger. Make sure to remove all the spongy and seeded parts of the tomatoes.

When removing the "yucky" part from the tomatoes here's what you'll have - on the right, the stuff you keep; on the left the stuff you don't.

Empty all the canned items into a colander and rinse well. For the artichoke hearts, drain and rinse and cut in half - there's enough flavor left in them and with the dressing to make you happy. Cut the water chestnuts in half or even quarters. Add in a bottle of the dressing.  Send this to the refrigerator because like the pasta even veggies need to repent.

Leave both containers in the refrigerator overnight. Stir occasionally - this is especially important with the pasta - you want the dressing to really soak into the pasta. The next morning, combine the two containers, add in the last bottle of dressing and the Feta - making sure it's crumbled up well - may people aren't a fan of it, but I find that crumbling it more seems to take the edge off. You can omit the cheese if you really feel the need. (psst... don't omit the cheese.)

Give it all a good stir and return it to the refrigerator until it's time to serve. This is best if served well chilled.

Right now, this is what it looks like... The pics of the finished product won't be available till after tomorrow so stay tuned.

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