Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Summer Pasta Salad

I just love summertime. I love everything about summer, except the heat. No more belt buster meals that you would normally serve in the fall and winter. Summer is a time to lose the extra pounds that you put on trying to keep warm. 
I just love pasta salads in the summertime. Served as a side they go with any summertime fare. Depending on the ingredients that you use, a pasta salad also can be an entree. My personal favorite is a shrimp salad. My second choice would be a salad with pieces of pepperoni and/or salami. Either one I’m in heaven.
You're going to chop some pepper's

I have to admit that the first time that I tried a cold pasta salad; it was probably out of a grocery store deli case. It always had a taste that my mother could not duplicate. Then one day, while having lunch at a friend’s  house I was introduced to something called ”Miracle Whip.” In my house it was Hellman’s Mayonnaise or nothing at all. In my friend’s house it was Miracle Whip.
Green or Black? It's up to you!
For the pasta, well I just have to have some design to it. The texture allows the pasta to hold the dressing on it. I like the tri-colored rotini for pasta salad. With the rotini you get spinach, tomato and egg pasta in one box.
Pepperoni or Salami? It's up to you!
The hard part is what you’re going to put in your salad. Some of your choices include; tomatoes, cucumber, red, green, and or yellow peppers, green or black olives, pickle, or pickle relish, cheese cubes (your choice), pepperoni, salami, hard boiled eggs, parsley, green onions, celery, sugar, vinegar, yellow mustard, celery seed.
Cut some cheese
While there may be regional traditions for pasta salads, there are no steadfast rules. For the dressing you can use Miracle Whip, Mayonnaise, Italian dressing, or just extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, and seasonings.
Almost there
Eating outdoors is a favorite pastime during the summer months in the Midwest. On days when the weather is extremely warm extra care must be taken to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. Knowing the temperature danger zones will lessen the chances of getting your friends and family sick. You should buy a good quality instant read thermometer, keep it clean and know how to calibrate it. 
Cook and drain pasta
Cold foods must be kept at 41ºF, or lower. Bowls of cold salads should be placed directly into a second bowl filled with ice and covered by a linen towel that has been moistened. Be safe.
Assembling the salad
Hot foods must be kept at 140ºF or hotter. Bacteria won’t grow when the temperature of the food is colder than 41ºF or hotter than 140º F. The temperatures in between 41ºF and 140ºF are in the “Danger Zone.” When in doubt throw it out.
Add mayonnaise, or salad dressing
Summer Pasta Salad

10    oz. box      Tri-color spiral pasta, uncooked (Rotini)
1/2   lb.             Cheddar cheese, cubed
1     cup             Cucumber, seedless, coarsely chopped
1     pint            Grape tomatoes, halved
2-3   stalks        Green onions, chopped
4     oz.              Pepperoni slices, quartered
4     oz.              Salami slices, quartered
1     10 oz. can  Black olives, drained
1     4 oz. jar      Pimentos, drained
3/4   cup            Zesty Italian salad dressing
to taste              Lemon juice, fresh squeezed
to taste              Black pepper, fresh cracked

The variations to this salad are endless. You can use any good combination of: black olives, green olives, salami, pepperoni, artichokes, hearts of palm, zucchini, cheese, jalapeno peppers, capers, pickled peppers (banana), or Jardinière. You can add green beans, broccoli, corn, or shredded carrots.

Mix it good
When it comes to cheeses the choice is really up to you. I used fresh mozzarella which had very little flavor. Try a bolder Pepper Jack, Cheddar, Swiss, Gouda, or any other flavorful cheese.

Bring 4 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the rotini, and cook the pasta for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Rinse and drain the pasta and set aside to cool.
While the pasta is cooling, cut, slice, or chop your choice of ingredients for your salad. Place the drained and cooled pasta into a large bowl. Fold in all the ingredients into the pasta. Toss with mayonnaise, Miracle Whip, or your favorite salad dressing. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving. During that chilling hour the pasta may absorb some of the dressing. Add more if you mayonnaise, or salad dressing if you like. Enjoy!

© TMelle 2013