Friday, May 28, 2010

Herby Summery Salad

I don't know about your part of the world right now, but where I am, things are starting to heat up. It's like all of a sudden, spring decided to turn into summer over night, and we've been treated to hot hot temperatures that make me feel like it's July. Don't get me wrong -- I looooooove the summer and hot weather, but when you have a south facing classroom on the west side of the school, your afternoon classes are more than a bit warm. And my poor students -- it's not that they don't want to participate, they just can't. The weather has steamed off every last bit of energy they have. And to top it off, I've come down with some sort of summer flu/cold that's got me feeling less than energetic.

Hot weather + summer flu + 4 weeks till the end of the year = a not very enthusiastic class. This short week felt long, and I have a feeling that June is going to drag on and on. But you know what? I don't mind a bit. June is fun.. well, when the students aren't crazed with summer fever or hyper from all the freezies they're buying at lunch time, June can be relaxing. Report cards are almost done so we're not that worried about marks, we can take our classes outside for some lessons under the shade of a tree, and there's an excitement in the air in anticipation for the upcoming 2 months off. June is great.

But, the hot weather is not making me feel like cooking, or eating for that matter. There's nothing that steamy hot days to make my appetite plummet, unless we're making cold, summery things.. like summery pasta salad. I've got bad memories of pasta salad -- overcooked macaroni covered in a goopy, neon yellow-coloured dressing that screams heart attack in one bite. Not a good thing on a hot day. To me, pasta salads should be the exact opposite: fresh light, lemony, tangy, cool and refreshing. Yeah, that's a pasta salad, and that's what I was craving earlier this week. My craving came just in time, because we had just planted tons of herbs on our balcony and purchased some local grape tomatoes from the market. A quick stop at the cheese store for some boccaccini, and dinner was almost ready. A little snag to deal with first: no red onion (which would have been perfect), so we substituted a bit of julienned, blanched leeks, which weren't ideal but tasted good enough along side the carrot, broccoli and of course, pasta. A lemony vinaigrette loaded with fresh thyme and a healthy dose of basil made this pasta salad come alive. And the boccacinni added a little creaminess without overwhelming the salad. It's a neat little cheese -- I'd never bought it before or cooked with it, and at first when I bit into it, it tasted like nothing. But as I kept chewing, a lovely, creamy cheesy taste came out: perfect to round out the sharp, mustard-y dressing and mild veggies.

Ok, so I change my mind about the hot weather making me not want to eat. I'll take this salad on the hottest day in July. Bring it on, summer!

Summery Pasta Salad

juice of half a lemon
2 teaspoons of grainy mustard
1 teaspoon of honey
2 sprigs of thyme (minus the tough stems of course!)
1.5 tablespoons of olive oil (or adjust to your taste)
salt and pepper to taste

2 portions of short pasta (I used vegetable shells)
a small handful of grape tomatoes, quartered
half a head of broccoli (asparagus would be nice too!)
a bit of julienned leeks (or use red onion if you have it)
a small carrot, julienned
4 mini boccaccini balls cut or torn up
a big handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped roughly or torn up

1. Make the vinaigrette by mixing together everything except the olive oil first. Then, slowly add the olive oil while whisking. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Let it sit in the fridge while you make the pasta.

2. Boil your pasta. When it's about 5 minutes from being done, add in the broccoli. After another 2 minutes, dunk the leeks in with a sieve and then remove. Drain the pasta and broccoli and put them in a large dish.

3. Add your carrot, leeks, boccaccini and basil and give it a little toss to disperse all the ingredients. Add in your vinaigrette and give it another good toss. If you can wait, let it sit, covered, in the fridge for another 10 minutes or so before digging in.

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