Category Archives: Summer

Pasta Salad for Hurricane Irene

This weekend, as the East Coast waited for Hurricane Irene to arrive, I whipped together this pasta salad.  I was in the Philadelphia area this weekend, away from the hustle and bustle of New York City, and happy that I had access to a backyard and a grill.  Friday’s weather was gorgeous, so I made the most of the brief hours that remained before the rain came pouring down to grill some chicken and make this side dish.

I am not the biggest fan of traditional pasta salad, mainly because I dislike mayonnaise in almost anything except for tuna salad.  This pasta salad is still creamy, due to the incorporation of goat’s milk cheese, but it is lighter, and in my opinion, more befitting of a nice summer evening.  My favorite thing about this pasta is the way that the raw corn bursts in your mouth as you take a bite.  It’s also easy to prepare, and can be made in the time that it takes to heat the grill and cook some chicken or steak.  I will definitely be making this again, although hopefully not on the eve of another hurricane!

Happy Cooking,
Pippa

Summer Pasta Salad with Goat Cheese, Sweet Corn, and Scallions

Serves 5

Ingredients:

  • 1-pound box of macaroni-shaped pasta
  • 1  bunch of scallions (green parts only), sliced thinly
  • Kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn (or 1.5 cups of frozen corn)
  • 4oz goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Instructions:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the box.
  2. While the water is coming to a boil and the pasta is cooking, slice the scallions, crumble the goat cheese, and remove the kernels from the 2 ears of corn.
  3. When the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta in a colander and add it to a large mixing bowl with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Add the scallions, goat cheese, and raw corn to the pasta and toss everything together.  Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Serve immediately or allow the pasta to cool and serve at room temperature.

Longing for Panzanella Salad

Every summer I look forward to that brief window of time during which tomatoes are at their peak, fully-ripened by the sun, juicy and flavorful.  The ones that I am talking about ooze when you slice into them, releasing their flavorful juices all over your cutting board. Summer tomatoes are nothing like their winter counterparts, who are deceptively red yet have little to no flavor.  Growing up, my favorite way to enjoy summer tomatoes was with fresh mozzarella and basil from the garden. Now, I eagerly anticipate the day that I can make my first Panzanella salad of the summer.

Panzanella salad is a traditional Tuscan peasant dish that employs leftover bread and fresh tomatoes as its base.  In my version, I marinade tomatoes in garlic, torn basil, chopped garlic, thin slivers of red onion, good extra-virgin olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar, and a generous amount of salt and fresh ground black pepper.  I let the tomatoes marinade for at least 30 minutes, and sometimes longer, allowing the tomatoes to macerate and the garlic and basil flavors to fully develop.  The remaining ingredients are at the discretion of the cook, but I typically add baby arugula, slices of cucumber, and a generous handful of shaved ricotta salata cheese.  All of these ingredients, along with toasted/stale bread, and some more olive oil and vinegar, is added at the end, about 10-15 minutes before sitting down to eat.  Although it sounds like a homey salad, it tastes revelatory.  The tomato juices and olive oil bleed into the cubes of bread, softening them just slightly so that they are at the same time both soft and crunchy in your mouth.  The sweetness of the tomatoes is counteracted by the saltiness of the ricotta salata and the peppery arugula, and the flavors of the garlic and basil linger in your mouth at the end.  It makes me salivate just writing about it.

Funnily enough, I was recently in Charleston, South Carolina for a wedding and was lucky enough to score a table at Husk restaurant (recently named by Bon Apetit magazine as the Best New Restaurant in America).  The menu changes nightly, and on the night that we went, the chef was making “Fried Cornbread “Panzanella” Salad with Grilled VA Lamb Heart and Sungold Tomato Puree“.  It was surprising and delicious, and I loved the chef’s use of leftover cornbread. It reminded me that there are so many ways to play with Panzanella—you could add artichokes, shaved fennel, fresh shell beans, or even grilled shrimp.

QuestionHave you ever made Panzanella salad, or ordered it at a restaurant? If so, what are your favorite ingredients to include?

Happy Cooking,
Pippa



Summer Panzanella Salad
Serves 5

The key to making a good Panzanella salad is to allow the tomatoes enough time to marinade (always at room temperature, not in the fridge!) and to restrain yourself from adding the bread too early, so as to avoid soggy bread. Ricotta salata is a dry Italian, sheep’s-milk cheese that is tangy and salty. Its flavor is somewhat similar to feta, but I recommend using shaved Parmesan cheese as an alternative if you can’t find ricotta salata)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1b. tomatoes (heirloom or vine-ripened), cut into 1-inch cubes, juices reserved
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1/2 of a red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 loaf of country-style bread or baguette cut in cubes (either allowed to sit out to dry, or toasted in the oven at 300F until hard but not colored, approx. 10-15 minutes)
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil, torn into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (this is the time to break out the good stuff!)
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/2 seedless cucumber, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into thin slices
  • 12oz. baby arugula
  • 1/2 cup shaved ricotta salata cheese (if you can’t find ricotta salata, use shaved Parmesan cheese)

Instructions:

  1. Combine the tomatoes and their juices, the garlic, basil, red onion, olive oil, and vinegar in a large bowl and toss everything together.
  2. Season the mixture with salt and pepper to taste.  Allow the tomatoes to marinade for approximately 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour.
  3. 10-15 minutes before serving the salad, add the bread, arugula, cucumber, and cheese to the bowl and toss everything together, adding a few more splashes of olive and vinegar as necessary. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Let stand for 10-14 minutes and serve.