Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pool Party Pasta Salad

The dad of one of my daughter's basketball teammates invited the girls and their parents to his country "house" for a summer potluck BBQ Pool Party. I put "house" in quotes because zowie!, it's a dreamy country estate. He lives on top of one of several rolling hills that overlook tranquil wine vineyards, and has a view of not only Mt. Hood, but also Mt. Jefferson, Mt. St. Helens, and even Mt. Adams in the distance. My hubby was raised in the country, and I could tell he was in heaven as he soaked in the view. I've been there before, but each time I visit, I'm completely mesmerized by the gorgeous vistas as well as how quiet it is away from suburbia. Quiet is a relative term though, because the pool was filled with seven squealing, beautiful 12-13 year old girls ... and one 14 year old boy. I suspect that young man was enjoying his version of heaven!

Usually, I have potluck dishes planned out days in advance. Not this time, though. I had a very busy morning and was running short on time prior to the party, so I thought I'd just grab something pre-made from the deli. But ... I just couldn't do it; I couldn't get myself to purchase something. When invited to someones home, I was always taught to bring something homemade ... something from the heart. So, with a quick glance at the clock, I affirmed to the universe that, yes, I could create a killer pasta salad in the hour and 15 minutes I had. Did I mention that I'm REALLY good under pressure? No kidding ... I'm the go-to guy when the pressure is on. Of course, it helped that I had a stocked kitchen. Here's what I came up with:

1 1b bow tie pasta, cooked, drained, and rinsed in ice cold water, drained again
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 diced red bell pepper
1 peeled and seeded cucumber, diced
1/2 cup pitted calamata olives, rough chopped in big pieces
1 cup smoked salmon broken into chunk pieces
2 Tbsp Feta cheese
2 tsp capers
3 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
chopped herbs from garden: sweet basil, greek oregano, chives, parsley, and dill
Sea Salt to taste
Lots of fresh ground pepper
Simple vinaigrette made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic salt* and seasoned salt (like Spike or Lawrey's) - I just eyeballed this as 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar to equal about 1/3 cup total.

*Note: I opted not to use real minced garlic because the garlic I have on hand right now is VERY strong, otherwise, I'd have added it, too.

Instructions: In a large bowl, toss together the pasta, onion, pepper, and cucumber with the simple vinaigrette. Then, add the olives, salmon, Feta, capers, toasted pine nuts, and herbs, and gently combine. Taste and season with sea salt and lots of freshly ground pepper. I don't like my pasta salads dripping with dressing, so I don't use too much. Of course, add as much as you want. You could even cheat and use a bottled dressing, if you wanted. I bet this would taste great with grilled or roasted left over chicken, too.

As with all potlucks, there was tons of food and drink at the party. Even though I brought this salad for the grown ups to consume, my Pool Party Pasta Salad was a hit with both the adults and the kids. I think the pine nuts really solidified this puppy as a keeper. I saw lots of eaters make yummy faces as they purposefully picked up pine nuts here and there on their plate and ate them. The Pool Party Pasta Salad was the only dish to be completely devoured. Not a pine nut or red pepper piece was left in the bowl. I knew the adults would enjoy it, but was shocked to see these girls, all of whom I know to harbor some variation of picky eater syndrome, chow down on the pasta. I have to admit, it felt pretty good seeing people enjoy my food. Of course, my own daughter didn't touch my salad. Grrr. The picky eater syndrome lives.


Grace said...

lovely colors and awesome ingredients--i'm not surprised it was gobbled up!
meanwhile, 12 years ago i was exactly like your daughter--basketball-loving and picky eater extraordinaire. actually, i'm still like that. :)

Pam said...

What a beautiful pasta salad... I love the idea of adding salmon to it. By the way, I have given you an award on my site. Cheers.

Cheryl said...

Lord Oh Dear, hubsters just smoked a bunch of salmon and I wondered what to do with it! and I love feta!! Thanks Peach!

Kevin said...

That pasta salad looks good.

Syrie said...

Looks delicious Paula!

Manggy said...

Whoo-hoo! Go Rachael Ray! Hee hee :) Your daughter is such a party-pooper, lol :P The pasta looks delicious from here, how could she not eat?!

Marjie said...

Did you leave out the part where your daughter says, "But, Mom, I always get your excellent food at home and wanted to confirm my suspicions that no one else's mother cooks half as well as you do"? Oh, yeah, I forgot, that doesn't happen in real life. Pretty pasta salad, Paula. Did you leave the other 2 home and pretend you were a "small family"? Mr. Offspring should have been miffed at missing a good grazing opportunity!

Jeena said...

This pasta looks so lovely. I love smoked salmon so I can just imagine how this tastes, it sounds wonderful.

Krysta said...

I now know my kids suffer from PES (picky eater syndrome) thanks for the diagnosis.

noble pig said...

That looks colorful and nice for a summer dinner!

Katherine Aucoin said...

I never met a pasta I didn't like. Yours has all of my favorite ingredients! Looks beautiful and yummy too!

Homesick Texan said...

I love pasta salad in the summer--it keeps you cool, but feels more substantial than a lettuce salad. And yours sounds great!

Paula said...

Hi Grace: I'm sure my daughter will enjoy sports well into her 100's! Maybe by then she'll try foods that touch on her plate!

Pam: Thanks for the award! Hope you have a great time at your reunion!

Cheryl: Isn't smoked salmon awesome! Hey, if you have too much, send some my way! Two of my kids devour it with grizzly bear efficiency! :-)

Kevin: It tastes as good as it looks, and was really easy to make.

Syrie: It was yummy! Thanks for stopping by!

Manggy: She doesn't eat sandwiches, either! Despite her picky eater syndrome, she's an amazing, beautiful sweetie-pie!

Marjie: I'm sure she just forgot to mention it! Young man had just gotten his eye patch removed, thus swimming was not an option. So, he stayed home and played with the wee one.

Jeena: It was really good and was surprisingly refreshing, too, on a hot, hot day. Thanks for stopping by.

Krysta: It's an epidemic! Hopefully, they will outgrow the symptoms as they age!

Noble pig: It was a terrific potluck dish. When your pool gets refilled, I can bring over some! :-)

Katherine: Thanks! I agree ... pasta salads are so yummy! :-)

Homesick Texan: This was pretty to look at and fun to eat. Without the mayo dressing, it was suprisingly light.

Proud Italian Cook said...

Great pasta salad Paula, Yummm, to all your ingredients! This is a meal in itself!

Deborah said...

Sounds delicious - and even better that it can be thrown together so quickly!

Lisa said...

I love your salad. I think I have everything I need, including some salmon from yesterday, to pull it together for dinner tonight! Once again, you are an inspiration!

Aggie said...

I love pasta salad and this one looks delicious! All my favorite ingredients!!

I'm the same way about bringing something "homemade"!

Thanks for visiting my blog! I'll be back here for sure!