Saturday, April 2, 2016

FOOD FRIDAY - Simple Pasta Salads

from Kris B.

I trust that I am not alone in having those nights where you wander through the kitchen looking in the fridge, rummaging through the pantry, and checking the spice cabinet hoping that there are some ingredients that will work together and magically become dinner.  If I am alone in this, please keep that fact to yourself!  Often these meals that I have scrounged together in desperation become some of my favorites.  This Tortellini Salad is one such creation.

As I recall, I had the three cheese tortellini and that sounded good for dinner, but didn't have the necessary ingredients to make a traditional pasta sauce.  I had broccoli that needed to be eaten.  Actually, I always have broccoli that needs to be eaten because it is my favorite green vegetable.  I am happy to eat it in, on, or with just about anything.  Because I was trying to come up with a meal rather than just a side of pasta, I wanted some meat to add to the tortellini and broccoli.  I had a few pieces of bacon that also were on the "need to eat soon" list.  I always have some kind of cheese on hand.  This particular night, Parmesan was the cheese of choice.  Throw a little red onion and some grape tomatoes into the mix and the dinner potential was becoming real.  Still, however, I had no sauce.

The easy solution would have been to pour some bottled salad dressing over the whole shebang and call it done.  All I had was Asian Sesame.  As much as I like that on certain salads, it didn't sound good with this.  I decided that I would start with a more or less traditional macaroni salad dressing and go from there.  

When all was said and done, this turned out to be really good.  This is probably because this salad contains most of my favorite food things.  It's filling but not too heavy, flexible, and better for you than some things!

1 19 oz bag frozen three cheese tortellini
1/2 lb bacon
1 head of fresh broccoli, chopped into bite sized pieces
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1 cup grape tomatoes
1/4 cup finely grated fresh Parmesan cheese

For the Dressing
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 mayonnaise
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

Chop the broccoli and dice the onion.  Grate the Parmesan cheese.

Cut the bacon into pieces and cook it.  Remove the cooked back to a paper towel to drain and cool.  While the bacon cooks, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  In its last minute of cooking, drop the chopped broccoli into the pasta water.  This will cook it just slightly.  Drain the pasta and broccoli and let cool in a large bowl.

While the pasta cools, in a medium bowl whisk together all of the ingredients for the dressing.  I prefer the dressing to lightly coat rather than drench the other ingredients.  If you prefer a "wet" salad, you may want to double the dressing proportions. 

Once the pasta has cooled, add the bacon, onion, and Parmesan cheese to the pasta and broccoli.  Add the dressing and toss the salad until all of the ingredients are evenly coated.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  As is the case with almost anything that has a dressing or sauce, allowing the ingredients to mingle for several hours makes for better flavor.

This recipe is simple and quite forgiving.  Don't have broccoli and tomatoes?  Add another vegetable.  Squash is nice.  Prefer different spices?  By all means, go for it.  Don't like cheese tortellini?  Substitute your favorite pasta.  Have some leftover ham fro Easter?  Use that instead of bacon.  Make it your own.  Create Your Favorites Tortellini Salad!

Some days my cooking and my photography are guided by the same principles - both need to be quick and easy.  I quickly made this salad for our lunches today and needed to get the photo done quickly as I was leaving the house at noon and wouldn't be home again until almost 10 pm.  During my time away from the house, and more importantly my computer, I did have a little down time.  I decided that I would take today's photo with my phone and do any necessary editing on my iPad.

I shot the photo of the pasta on our outdoor kitchen cement counter with the resident camera on my iPhone.  The concrete added just a little bit of texture to the frame.  I then added the text and a frame using the Rhonna Designs app and I was done.  

Sometimes I feel like relying solely on my phone and its editing apps are cheating somehow.  Then there are the days where I know that it is the responsible way to use what little time I have.  When I got to the end of the day, I had a decent meal and an acceptable photo so I consider my day a success. Lol!

from Tracey G

I love using Food Fridays as a reason to experiment and try new recipes. Probably not the best thing, because if it doesn't turn out I'm stuck with it and can only report that it was awful, lol. But I've, for the most part, yet to have that happen. I've ran into some difficulties in the execution of the recipe, but it's always something I know that another run-through would iron out. This one was rather humorous as I was trying to get it together. I mean, come on, how hard can a macaroni salad be - really!? Well, it helps if on the day you're making it you have all the ingredients in the proper amounts that you need. I miscalculated my mayo supply, thinking I had much more than I actually did, and ended up having to make a half a batch of it. Then, trying to get the pickle juice into the bowl, I tipped the jar a bit too far and spilled some all over my recipe and island, lol. I was not having a good day! But I must say, all the trials and tribulations were totally worth it, I absolutely loved this recipe! And it's another one of those you can customize to your tastes, very easily I might add too.

I discovered it in my newest Taste Of Home magazine as I was flipping through. I've been on the hunt for a new macaroni salad. I love the version with tuna and peas etc, but I was getting really bored with it, and just wanted something different. This is the first one that caught my eye, maybe because it reminded me of deviled egg ingredients to a certain extent or something. Not sure, but I am glad I gave it a try, it's wonderful in my opinion, and as I told Kris, I likely could have eaten the whole batch myself, lol.

Now, I have to be honest here, the original name is NOT "Grandma's Macaroni Salad", it's "Judy's Macaroni Salad". But, I don't know a Judy or even the Judy. And to be even more honest, I never knew any of my grandparents, my maternal grandmother passed away when I was 6 months and my other grandparents passed away well before I was born. So, I can't even say I knew WHAT my grandma's macaroni salad was like - but this is what I IMAGINE a grandma's macaroni salad would taste like. It seems like a nice vintage mac salad recipe that a grandma WOULD make, so that's my reasoning and I hope everyone and Judy will forgive me! I will include the link to the original recipe of course!  

It involves simple ingredients that I think are a great combination: Elbow macaroni, hardboiled eggs, cheddar cheese, sweet pickles, mayonnaise, sweet pickle juice, salt and pepper - extremely uncomplicated. That's probably why it works as well as it does.

So, here's the recipe:

Grandma's Macaroni Salad

courtesy of Taste Of Home as Judy's Macaroni Salad
Serves 12, 3/4 cup each

2 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/4 cup sweet pickle juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded cheddar cheese
6 hard-cooked large eggs, chopped
6 sweet pickles, chopped

1) Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain macaroni; rinse with cold water and drain well.

2) In a small** bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sweet pickle juice, salt and pepper. Stir in the cheese, eggs and pickles. Add macaroni; toss gently to coat. Refrigerate, covered, at least 2 hours or until chilled.

** The original recipe as I've put here, calls for  a "small" bowl - but I used a medium sized bowl as due to the fact after you mix the ingredients in it, you then toss in the macaroni and I don't see how a small bowl would work very well for that and mixing the ingredients all together! :-) 

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