So many memorable old phrases I enjoy using, fine writer that I am. One is, “No good deed goes unpunished.” Another might be, “Birds of a feather flock together.” Which must, of course, be followed by, “Opposites attract.” Following those for no reason at all is, “Great minds think alike.” Which is what I say when I make a dish off the top of my head and begin to write the recipe before realizing I cooked the same (or nearly the same) thing 10 (5 or 15) years ago. Thank goodness “Love is Lovelier the Second Time Around,” (a favorite wedding song of mine) and I absolutely don’t mind “reinventing the wheel.” Roll your eyes now or forever hold your peace. Ok, I’m done. But I really did make almost this very same salad in 2014, though its current appearance is quite distinct from the first and today’s recipe title is “Asparagus-Potato Salad” rather than, “Roasted Potato-Asparagus Salad with Mushrooms and Sweet Onions.” Same difference. Just about.
About this time of year — right after the 4th of July, in fact — the typical grill faves at our house seem to fade off into the proverbial sunset. They’re not nearly so exciting as they were when we dusted off the patio in May and had the first cheeseburger with grilled sweet potato wedges and Sriracha Mayo dip. Or even when the early sweet corn got overly buttered and salted just a week or two ago and I thanked God my dentist had only two weeks before — and for the third time (sheesh) — fixed the snaggletooth chip in my right front tooth. (Just you wait for the Olathe corn coming up next month! I’m ready.) The sides, particularly, feel a bit lackluster. Another ho-hum pasta salad or middle-of-the-road caprese? More lemony green beans?! “What’s for dinner?” begins again, especially as the sun seems to just hang there up in the sky something like forever and it’s hot as ________. Are we bored that easily? It seems we may be. A bit of an embarrassment, isn’t it?
As a cook and a lover of my friends and family, one of my frequent questions to pose is:
What’s your favorite meal?
People will often need a moment because we have so very many things we love. I myself can unequivocally answer,
This even though I often live on eggs, don’t particularly want to live without asparagus, and am rarely more pleased than when there’s beef stew for dinner. I like great individual artisan pizza, take-out or delivery pizza, homemade pizza (my son makes the best), and probably only draw the line at frozen pizza — though I’ll eat Lou Malnati’s anytime, good Chicago girl that I am. I love pizza so much that I’m not picky. (Ok, I don’t do Chucky Cheese.) But I’m amazed how many times Americans will answer, “Hamburgers” when it comes to their favorite food. They include fries more than half the time, I’d wager. (Click HERE for a list of Top 50 American Foods.) And while they love a great or famous burger from a bar, I think they’re even happier with a summertime grilled-at-home version or even a drive-in dive sandwich. (If I jump in the car, I can be at Cy’s in two minutes with a green line down at the corner.) Continue reading →
Chicken and vegetables grill while the pasta cooks. Stir it all together –at the table?– with goat cheese and fresh herbs, and a fast summer pasta is ready for dinner on the deck.
This post celebrates 5 complete years of blogging on MORE TIME AT THE TABLE. Thanks for your loving kindnesses. Here’s to the next five years! Book almost here. I’m reading the proof copy now. So exciting!!
(above: iphone photo by sean anthony morgan)
Ok, now on to the pasta dinner on the grill…
For a few years, I’ve loved making summer pastas mostly on the grill. No big heavy sauce on the stove for hours like wintertime, just a few choice lovelies grilled to perfection and stirred into hot pasta (scroll down for pasta info) with some fresh herbs and maybe a little cheese. If you’ve a burner on the side of your grill, you can do the pasta outside as well and save your kitchen and you from the damp heat. If it’s not too warm, you can use your stove, which may be quicker.
Summer comes and this tortellini salad comes with it. Just ask my family.
Full of tender cheese-filled tortellini and lots of chunky vegetables, it’s held together with a brisk mustard vinaigrette and lots of thin slices of sopressata or hard salami. If I’m going to a family event or a church picnic, I make a big bowl of this salad and bring it along. In Minnesota, it goes in the cooler and makes its way up north to celebrate Joe’s and Olivia’s birthdays. The original recipe was, I think, from the COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE years ago, but it has changed quite a bit over time.
I missed Olivia’s birthday this year, but made the salad anyway. See you soon, I hope!
Here in Colorado, it travels up I-25 to Denver for a family afternoon by the pool after a visit to a museum.
This year, Bill made a big hunk of brisket he smoked overnight. Sean brewed some beer and I made (of course) the tortellini salad. Occasionally it morphs just a bit; originally it didn’t have many vegetables. I had to amend that. The resulting salad is fine for a whole meal, but it’s also a total one-dish side for any barbequed meat. You know how pasta salad can be pale, insipid, and less than interesting? Perhaps only filling? Easily left on the plate at picnics? That is what this pasta salad is not.
Nope, we don’t want to get out of the pool. Even for lunch.
This is either Cosmo or Gizmo tending bar. Whichever one, he got no tortellini salad.
The unveiling of the smoked meat!
TORTELLINI SALAD FOR OLIVIA’S BIRTHDAY, BILL’S BRISKET, or YOUR SUMMER BASH serves 12
18-20 oz. fresh cheese tortellini (find in refrigerator case) 2 small zucchini, cut into matchstick size pieces 1 small yellow squash, ditto 1 red sweet pepper, ditto 1 yellow sweet pepper, ditto 1 green or orange sweet pepper, ditto 1/4 c minced red onion 1/4# hard salami, cut into 1/4″ slices (I like sopressata for this.) 1/3 c each fresh basil and parsley, chopped (keep out 1 T for garnish) 1/2 t dried oregano or Herbes de Provence 1/2 c freshly-grated Parmesan cheese (keep out 2T for top of dish) 3 cloves garlic, minced 3T red wine vinegar 2T Dijon mustard 1/3 c Extra-virgin olive oil Kosher salt; Freshly-ground Pepper;1/8 t crushed red pepper
Cherry Tomatoes for garnish
In 8 qt. stock pot, bring 5-6 qts. well-salted water to boil. Add fresh tortellini and cook about 8 min or according to package directions.
Meantime, make dressing: In large bowl (or in food processor), whisk together red wine vinegar, garlic and Dijon mustard. Slowly pour in olive oil and whisk until emulsified (creamy and satiny). Add salt and peppers; stir well. Set dressing aside.
Drain tortellini while still a tad al dente and, while hot in colander, add all zucchini and yellow squash. Stir gently to let heat of pasta cook the squash just a tad. Allow pasta and squash to cool, stirring periodically.
Add sliced peppers, salami, all but 2 tablespoons parmesan all but 1 tablespoon fresh basil, and the oregano or Herbes de Provence. Stir gently; tortellini can fall apart easily. Drizzle most of dressing onto salad and combine. (Save some dressing to add right before serving)
Refrigerate until needed or overnight. To serve, add extra dressing and taste salad for seasoning. Add salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with reserved basil or parsley, Parmesan cheese, and cherry tomatoes. (If refrigerated overnight, you’ll definitely need to re-season.)
Note: If you have any other vegetables, add them. This version has some fresh, minced broccoli as well as some diced carrots.
Note: For vegetarian or vegan option, skip salami and, for vegan, use pasta made without eggs and leave off Parmesan.