This salad satisfies as a side dish for a cook-out, a take-to-a-potluck dish or a main dish for a light dinner or lunch. Use the freshest, crunchiest iceberg lettuce and lettuce cups, and farmers market tomatoes. This is also a good way to stretch a little bit of chopped smoked ham and deli turkey breast to serve 4-6.
Pasta ‘Chopped’ Salad
1 1/2 cups (uncooked) macaroni or other small shape pasta, such as shells or penne
3 tablespoons Mustard Vinaigrette, recipe follows
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then pan-grilled until lightly browned on cut sides
2 small green onions, trimmed, leaving some of the green, and sliced thin
1/4 cup smoked ham, cut in small dice
1/4 cup deli turkey breast, cut in small dice
1/4 cup white cheddar cheese (sharp), cut in small dice
1 large or 2 medium vine-ripened or farmers market tomatoes, peeled (see Note) and cut into small dice
Optional: 1/4 cup diced artichoke heart, red bell pepper, OR chopped green olives
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Salt, to taste
Pepper, if desired, to taste
1 head iceberg lettuce, trimmed, washed, drained well and chilled for an hour or more for crispness
Snipped green onion chives or parsley for garnish
Wedges of tomato and/or hard-cooked egg, optional garnish
Cook the pasta as directed on the package. When it is done, drain and cool it. When it has cooled almost to room temperature, put it in a large bowl and dress with the Mustard Vinaigrette (directions follow). Mix together gently and set aside.
For the Mustard Vinaigrette: Mix together 1/4 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons low acid vinegar (such as a white wine, champagne or rice vinegar), 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, 1 small, chopped clove garlic, a pinch of salt and a pinch of white pepper. Whisk ingredients together until creamy-looking. Add in, bit by bit, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard and whisk well. (What you don’t use in this salad save in the refrigerator for future use.)
For the Salad: As the pasta is cooking and cooling, and you’ve made the vinaigrette, dice up the vegetables. (Note: Zucchini is good pan-grilled just a little bit to add a nice, caramelized flavor. You don’t have to cook it too long, just enough to color the white part. Then, cut into 1-inch slices.)
In a large bowl, toss together the dressed pasta, celery, celery, zucchini, smoked ham, turkey, cheese, tomato, any of the optional ingredients, if using, and mayonnaise. Gently mix all of the ingredients together and season to taste. Cover the bowl and chill the salad in the refrigerator for at least an hour or so.
Note: you don’t have to peel the tomatoes, but to do this easily, immerse each tomato into a pan of boiling water for just 30 seconds or so. Take out, let cool a few moments. The skin should slip right off.
When ready to serve, make generous-sized lettuce cups from the outer leaves of the lettuce and place on 4 plates (or into wide, shallow bowls). Chop some of the inner lettuce leaves and place into each lettuce cup. Scoop as much of the pasta salad into each lettuce cup as you like, garnish with the optional tomato wedge and hard-cooked egg. Garnish with chives or parsley.
From Bonnie Walker
Photograph by Bonnie Walker