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Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Twist on the Old Pasta Salad Recipe

I love pasta salad. No, not the types you get smothered in mayonnaise or ranch dressing with fake bacon bits. But real pasta salad that showcases whatever fresh produce and herbs you have on hand. And some really good olive oil. I decided to try a recipe from one of my favorite blogs, 101 cookbooks. You use saffron-infused red wine vinegar for the dressing. Honestly, my taste buds are usually able to predict what to expect, but I couldn't imagine what I was in for with this one. I loved that it was simple and featured asparagus.

And how excited are you that it's asparagus season?! We have someone in our community garden that dedicates half of their plot to asparagus. It's beautiful. Have you ever seen asparagus growing? It looks like huge, overgrown ferns. I'm always tempted to steal some for myself each Spring, but I've been able to control myself so far.

Here's the recipe for Asparagus Pasta Salad:

Adapted from 101 cookbooks

Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
pinch saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 medium size lemon
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream

Pasta:
1 lb pasta (penne works well)
1 lb asparagus cut into 1/2 inch pieces
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 medium garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Heat garlic and olive oil in a skillet. Add mushrooms and saute until tender.

Add the red wine vinegar to a small saucepan with the saffron and bring to a simmer. Once it starts to simmer, remove from heat and let cool.

Cook pasta according to directions on package. Add the asparagus during the last minute of cooking. Drain and rinse pasta and asparagus with cool water.

Put the vinegar/saffron mix into a small mixing bowl with the lemon juice and mustard. Whisk in the olive oil. Add cream at the end and salt to taste.

Put the cooked pasta, asparagus and mushrooms into a large bowl. Cover with vinaigrette and toss. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Add goat cheese and pine nuts and enjoy!