Friday, August 28, 2009

4 Basic Pasta Salads and One dressing

Did you catch this morning's segment on Fox 10 Phoenix Arizona Morning? It was such an honor to be on the show, and as always they were nice enough to post the video on their website: Please feel free to post this link to your friends and family. It's a great way to save money!

This represents my typical $15 trip to the veggie market.

If I didn't live in a condo, I'd grow more. Off that veggie trip, we make a lot of salad.
"salad dressing" covers it all under "headings".

I face a dilemma. I want to teach gourmet...but I also feel an extreme need to get back to basics. I've had a lot of comments requesting more down to earth family friendly yet budget friendly recipes. People losing their homes who can't make ends meet. Hard working people, who just don't have work. They just want their kids to have shoes. Real people with real problems. So here I am. I won't be doing a lot of the fancy stuff today. Just some great ideas for that lunch box or dinner that will help in a real way. I want to help you listen to the culinary artist in yourself as well. That means, I will give a basic recipe and then some wonderful ideas of flavors that would go with it. The flavors my friends, will be for you to play with. Meaning? You will get to try to play with herbs and create in a new way. In life and love...this is how the most magic starts. Listen to your heart. I will be listing some basic spices and herbs that work together. The lists are not complete (as this would take pages and pages...remember that this is the beginning...basics).

This is a recipe I have used in cooking classes for several years. It works. I use it all the time in my home as well. It's vastly inexpensive and will save you real money.

Basic Pasta Salad
1 lb pasta of your choice, cooked al dente and seasoned well with salt and pepper. (Lower carb? use of thin sliced cabbage will really improve that carb count.)
1 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup carrots, shredded or chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced thin
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin or chopped fine

Basic Vinaigrette (for pennies a jar...) (FAT free coming up in a few lines)
3/4 cup olive or vegetable oil (flavored oils are great)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar or cider vinegar
1 tsp fresh pressed garlic
Herbs and spices

Herbs are the aromatic leaves, flowers and stems of plants. Fresh or dry work. Make sure you smell the jar. If it smells like the spice or herb then the stuff inside is still full of flavor. Spices are seeds and bark. They will need to be ground or grated. If you don't have a spice mill (not many do...then just buy the pre-ground and be sure it's fresh).

How many just read "herb and spices" and panic hit? I hear you saying, "I don't cook like that"...I need a recipe. Am I right? This is where I want you to try to let go of your cooking inhibitions and try to think with your heart. My 10 year old does it. You most definitely can do it! I believe in you.

For one batch of salad, you will need one batch of salad dressing.
Want fat free salad dressing? Did you know it's almost free to make if you have cornstarch and juice already in your cupboard? Use 3/4 cup vegetable broth or juice and 1/4 cup vinegar. In a cold sauce pan combine the vegetable broth with 1 T cornstarch. Add the liquid slowly and then when combined, cook on medium heat, boiling until thick, about 5-7 minutes. Allow to cool slightly and then add the vinegar and remaining herbs and spices. Use immediately. Keep refrigerated. If dressing gets thick simply add a little more vegetable broth to thin.
Dressing Variations (flavors that work together...again, not a complete list!):

Herbs: Basil, Rosemary, Thyme, flat leaf parsley, marjoram,
Spices: Fennel, caraway, crushed red pepper, celery seed.
Flavor Agents: hard cheeses like Parmesan, asiago. Olives, roasted peppers, citrus zest, capers.

Herbs: Dill, Oregano, Rosemary, Mint, parsley,
Spices: Fennel, anise, black pepper, dill seed
Flavor agents: Feta cheese, olives, pickled peppers.

Herbs: cilantro, mint, lemon grass, sesame oil (use 2 tsp in place of some of the oil)
Spices: Cumin, Chile paste, curry paste, fennel, ginger,
Flavor agents: lime zest, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, citrus zest, peanuts or cashews
Herbs: Cilantro, Oregano, thyme
spice: Cumin, coriander, Chile pods, black pepper, allspice
Flavor agents: lime zest, Roasted corn, green onions, radish, black olives.

Toss the herbs and spices in the dressing. The flavor agents can be added directly to the basic pasta salad recipe. Mix and match fresh veggies as they are in season. Add fruit if you like. For hearty dinners, add some roasted chicken or beef. Marinate meat in the vinaigrette and save a lot of money on those fancy bottles of pre-made stuff. You can do it. Start to feel yourself free up in the kitchen. It is very liberating. Enjoy.

Now for you folks who just want a grab and go dressing fix, you can just use the pre-made spice blends. You know...fajita seasoning, Italian seasoning, Greek Seasoning... Don't hurt yourself if you don't feel able to do the artsy stuff yet. I'm patient... and it's a process. Feel the Love babe.

There you go.


Dallas B. said...

Awesome! You know I have an herb garden sitting out front and I'm not exactly sure how to utilize it. Of course, you now know what we are having for dinner tonight, right? These sound like terrific dishes for large groups as well - You're awesome

J. P. said...

awesome! I'm so with you on the budget friendly stuff. I've been giving alot of consideration to the cheeses you did last week. Then again, every time my husband learns I am capable of making something from scratch, its eons till I get to just buy it premade again. (and usually the premade is a total disappointment and waste of money! lol)
There are times and seasons for everything and someday gourmet will be back, but in the meantime, I love that you want everyone to feel the love of your soul and learn to nourish their families with food and love.--Lisa

jdm6of18 said...

This really is a great basic pasta salad recipe. Made with Chef Tess Romantic Italian seasoning, excellent. Tried it with Chef Tess Southwest Fajita seasoning and green NM dried chiles, excellent. Assorted vegies work also. Thanks for a great recipe, which is going into my Meals in a Jar project.