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.