Growing up, if there was a summer barbeque, it was inevitable that my Mom was going to make pasta salad, it was quick and easy, most people liked it and she had three kids, give the lady a break. As one of said children, it was my duty to whine about it and be ungrateful. Turns out, I wasn’t giving it a fair shake because of my long standing hatred of celery salt…One of the key ingredients in the seasoning packet she used. I feel like it was literally Italian Dressing and a packet or shaker of Ms. Dash…the bile is rising… I LOVE PASTA SALAD though, and it was my duty today to redeem it.
So! I started with a boiling pot of salted water. I cut some button mushrooms in half while I got my cast iron skillet roaring hot.
When it was smoky hot, I added a bit of olive oil and threw those filthy little things in the pan to sear. While those were browning up nicely, I minced up some parsley and chiffonaded some basil. I also zested a whole lemon and squeezed the juice into a large bowl with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Once the mushrooms were seared nicely, I tossed them hot into the vinaigrette.
By this time the boiling water was nice and boily, and I tossed my garlic scapes into the pot. Garlic scapes are lovely if you haven’t ever tried them before. They are surprisingly mild on the garlic. They are similar in texture to blanched asparagus, and they can get a bit woody at the ends so, make sure you trim them, and you will eventually be cutting them on a sharp bias.
Once they are nice and bright and a little softer (don’t kill them, they are little guys), pick them out of your water with tongs and run them under cold water until they are cool to the touch. This locks in the color so that they stay bright and pretty!
Once they are cool you can cut them on a sharp bias and add them to your growing heap in the bowl.
Now you can go ahead and use the very same boiling water to throw your rotini in. Look how resourceful I am! I like rotini the most because it is a throwback to my Mom’s pasta salad. Props, D…
While you are waiting for the pasta, you can get out a melange of olives of any variety that you like, but please not canned black olives…blarf. If you have to pit them, chop them up a little and while you are at it, why not some capers or caper berries even???
This is starting to come together folks… Now, here is where I was a little worried, but I figured that my love of cauliflower would not lead me astray. I cut some big hunks of cauliflower up and got my pan nice and hot again.
Once again, I poured in some tasty olive oil and seared them crispy and brown. The squirrel wasn’t so sure about it, but I was like, “Shut up, Squirrel, leave this to the professionals…”
Ok, so I’ve been hitting the sauce Zissou-style. Only one though, I am a responsible adult here, people.
Now my pasta is ready, so I ran that under water until it was cool and tossed it in the bowl to start to get it’s mingle on.
I salted and peppered my seared cauliflower, and ran a knife over it a few times to make it more appropriately bite sized. I also decided at this point that the garlic scapes were really super mild and I am a woman who loves her garlic, so I minced up a fat clove and mixed it in.
Now I halved a bunch of lovely grape tomatoes. and tossed them in. Folks at this point, you have a LOVELY vegan salad that any person could get down with. Season it to your liking…don’t be afraid of a little salt. But, if you are a cheese and anything meaty-umami eater like me, go the extra mile, guys.
I added, three fillets of anchovies sliced thin, and a good 1/3-1/2ish cup of grated Parmesan Reggiano. I also chiffonaded more basil leaves and threw in a handful of pinenuts because I am fancy like that.
And folks that’s it. I am for once, looking forward to having pasta salad leftovers to eat for the next few days. I am not knocking Dawn. She is a great cook, and she taught me how to cook, but I think that she would agree that this is worlds apart. Now I just have to see what Eric thinks of it when he gets home from work!