Am I a horrible person because the word “casserole” sends me screaming to the hills? Just the sight of the tater-tot-topped, canned-chicken, Velveeta-cheese-oozing, can-of-soup-required concoctions that pass as casseroles all make me start to contemplate a Double Whopper with Cheese as a healthier option.
Sadly, “salad” also seems to take on a whole new meaning at times. I’ve seen bloated macaroni salad literally swimming in Miracle Whip and I’m still unclear on how anything that contains marshmallows and jello constitutes a salad and not a dessert.
So having said my little food-snob rant, I’ll be the first to admit that this recipe is not very fancy, nor very original. What I will say is this: it’s made with fresh veggies, no mayonnaise, (just like with my mayo-free coleslaw), and is a much slower way to clog your arteries and expand your waistline. Oh, and it’s pretty delicious if you like pasta and fresh veggies.
This is a dish that you have to customize to suit your tastes, along with using what you have on hand. I’ve made this pasta salad a number of ways based on the contents of my pantry and fridge. Black beans, cubed tofu, steamed broccoli or broccolini, snow peas, carrots, celery, chopped jalapeno, fresh basil, olives, artichoke hearts, goat cheese or feta cheese…use your imagination and your on-hand supplies. Here’s how I made this particular batch of pasta salad with my recent overly-ambitious veggie purchase at the store though I will warn you, it makes a big batch. Feel free to halve the recipe if this is for just a few people….
- 1 one-pound box dried orzo pasta, cooked al dente’ according to package directions and then rinsed under cold water and drained well
- 15 nice stalks of fresh asparagus, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces and steamed for 3 minutes (rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process)
- 1 English cucumber (really, any kind will do), partially peeled (I “stripe” mine with a veggie peeler), then sliced in half with the seeds scooped out and diced (the skin can be bitter and the seeds will add too much moisture, in case you’re wondering)
- 1 orange bell pepper, stemmed and seeded and chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed and seeded and chopped
- 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 20 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (or quarters, if they’re large)
- 3 scallions, whites and greens, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil or grapeseed oil (I used both)
- 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
- Juice of one lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. You may have to add a bit more of the oil or vinegar, depending on taste – the pasta and salad does absorb it after sitting. This is best once the flavors have had a chance to come together – usually at least a few hours.
Pretty simple, right? And no jello or marshmallows required.