I’m an avid recipe reader and collector, evidenced by the three large three-ring binders full of options to share with friends and my discerning family.
There’s a school of thought that everything’s better with bacon, at least for the non-vegetarian set. I say, for many dishes, Walla Walla Sweet Onions are another enhancement that really set recipes off.
Evidently so does Andrea McCoy who recently published a great summer pasta salad recipe in the Yakima Herald-Republic that includes Washington’s official state vegetable and bacon. It sounds fabulous.
Every summer Andrea heads to a family reunion, describing it as “a lovely week filled with barely contained chaos.”
It would be chaos of a sort with the 12 adults and eight kids under age 10 in her family who fill a giant house. Their small army is fed three times a day from a messy kitchen “because someone is always eating.”
It’s the food that gathers everyone in, Andrea said. “I love that a good meal is as much a balm for our souls as it is nourishing to our bodies.”
For the latest gathering she produced a penne pasta salad laced with jalapeño, bell peppers, bacon, feta — you get the idea. It’s the cilantro vinaigrette where the Walla Walla Sweet Onions get to shine.
But don’t worry, she offers alternatives for those who don’t eat jalapeño or cilantro, too.
“The result is a dish that easily feeds a big group and even better, is such a crowd-pleaser you’ll find people snacking on it well after the meal ends.
“It keeps exceptionally well in the refrigerator for a few days and because it’s not made with mayonnaise or other cream-based dressing, it’s ideal for a picnic or potluck.
“If cilantro isn’t your favorite, no problem. Skip the jalapeño in the salad and swap fresh basil leaves for the cilantro.”
Andrea’s Summer Chimichurri Pasta Salad
Serves 8-10 people.
A lovely addition to this salad is grilled chicken and sliced avocado to make it a complete meal. Grill several chicken breasts on the barbecue, slice or cube and add to salad. Top with thin slices of avocado.
1 pound penne pasta
5 slices center-cut bacon cut into bite size pieces
2 red or orange bell peppers, diced
3 green onions diced
1 jalapeño, seeds completely removed, finely minced, optional
4 ears corn shucked and cut from ear (a bag of frozen corn works great too) *see below
1 pint cherry tomatoes sliced in half, optional
6-ounce container crumbled feta cheese (goat cheese works great too)
Cook the bacon in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Flip occasionally, stirring constantly until the bacon is golden brown on both sides. Remove from heat and drain bacon on a paper-towel lined plate. Chop and set aside.
Boil the pasta following package instructions. When the pasta is tender but NOT soft, drain the water away. Run cold water over the pasta briefly to stop the cooking process and return the noodles to the pot. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the noodles and toss to evenly coat the pasta. Set aside.
In a large bowl combine chopped bell peppers, green onions, tomatoes, jalapeño and fresh corn. If using frozen corn, simply combine the frozen corn with the warm pasta. Stir until well-combined. The heat from the pasta will thaw the corn.
Add the pasta to the vegetables. Stir in the bacon pieces.
Cilantro (or Basil) Dressing
2 bunches cilantro or fresh basil
½ Walla Walla Sweet Onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Juice of a lime
Pinch of red pepper flakes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Using a food processor, combine all the dressing ingredients except the olive oil. Pulse a few times to break down ingredients. Turn food processor on and drizzle olive oil until a sauce forms and ingredients are completely combined.
Drizzle cilantro dressing over pasta salad, slowly mixing until ingredients are well-combined. Gently stir feta cheese into the salad. Garnish with extra cilantro and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to three days.
*Annie’s Oven-Roasted Corn on the
Cob ala Tyler Florence
Another option for the corn in the recipe is to oven-roast the ears first. A snippet I caught on TV’s Food Network of Chef Tyler Florence talking about this technique, turned me on to it and our family goes wild for the flavor. It’s infinitely better than boiling it and it doesn’t involve the grill in the heat of summer. So:
Ears of corn in husks
In a 350-degree oven, place husk-clad ears of corn directly on the oven rack and roast for 30 minutes. Remove, let cool for a bit and viola! the husks and silk come right off. Eat off the cob or slice the kernels off to toss in a salad or other dish.