Thanks to hot and muggy days this week and a broken oven, salads have turned into a theme for dinners in our house.
So far I have made three salads that I have been really happy with. The one I'm going to cover in this entry is my adaptation of a simple pasta salad with kidney beans and cilantro that I found over on Food Nerd.
The other two salads were a green bean salad with smoked salmon tips from the Hollyhock cookbook and a lovely Asian inspired coleslaw. The green bean salad with smoked salmon was the favorite of the three, and really deserves more than just a mere mention. Stay tuned.
But back to the pasta salad with beans. It was the use of cilantro that caught my eye. I love fresh herbs but there is just something special about those tiny green leaves that add a fresh tang to just about anything you add them to. I also hate to see good cilantro go to waste, so when I buy a bunch, I go through as many recipes as I can to use it all up.
And, like the Food Nerd, I also like to change things up, based on my tastes and ingredients on-hand. Which is exactly what I did with her salad recipe.
The original recipe for Georgian Bean Salad is from Smitten Kitchen. The Food Nerd version adds pasta, and omits the walnuts. My version:
- omits the walnuts (I didn't check the original source before preparing the salad)
- uses red pepper (had it on hand and saw a recommendation for it)
- uses white navy beans (what I had on hand)
- uses baby shells (again, what I had on hand)
- uses lemon juice instead of vinegar (taste preference)
I also fried the onions in butter before adding them to the salad because my family finds the taste of raw onions too strong.
I'm submitting this recipe to Presto Pasta Nights - started by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast and guest hosted for the very first time this week by Kevin at Closet Cooking. If you like pasta at all, Presto Pasta Nights are a great place to get a tonne of inspiration.
I'm also going to use this opportunity to ask a question to all you pasta salad makers. I'm not a big fan of onions and vinegar in salads, yet when it comes to pasta salads, that seems to be a scommon combination. Maybe I haven't looked long enough, but it seems like every pasta salad recipe (and indeed a lot of other salad recipes I have) call for both. Aren't there any other possible choices for dressings? I'd love to hear from others about how you put the zing in your pasta salads - especially if it doesn't involve vinegar!
Red, White and Green Pasta Salad
adapted from Food Nerd's Summer Pasta Salad with Kidney Beans and Cilantro
1 garlic clove, minced
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro - I put in a whole lot more because I subscribe to the same view on herbs as Tom Collichio - you can never have too much when it's fresh!
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 15-ounce can white or navy beans, drained and rinsed
4 oz baby pasta shells, cooked al dente
Salt and pepper to taste
Put a pot of salted water on to boil. While the water is boiling, mince the garlic and cilantro, and place in a large bowl. Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together with the garlic and cilantro. Dice the onion and add it to the bowl as well.
Once the water has come to a rapid boil, cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain and add to the bowl with the other ingredients. This is where I added the beans and the red pepper.
Allow the salad to cool to room temperature, toss and serve. Garnish with a few more cilantro leaves if desired.