Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dinner for Four

My favorite cooking magazine, Fine Cooking, often runs an article called Cooking Without Recipes. I love those articles. Because once you have the concept together, you can really get creative.

We were having company for dinner last night and my original plan was to have fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cream gravy, a green vegetable and salad. But it was hot and somehow mashed potatoes and cream gravy seemed heavy, heavier and hotter. So I pulled out the binder that held the 2004 Fine Cooking magazines. I flipped through it and noticed a cooking without a recipe article on Creating Fresh Summer Pasta Salads.....mmmmm. I've made pasta salads before but decided to read the article. The formula for a pasta salad that serves eight to ten is 1/2 pound of pasta, 6 cups of vegetables cut into bite sizes, 1 cup vinaigrette and 1 or 2 zesty add-ins, and the addition of cheese is optional. I like formulas rather than "recipes" because I never know what will be available and fresh when I go to the market.

I also picked up some additional tips. You can use both raw and cooked vegetables. The amount of pasta should not be more than 50% of the salad. Use a pasta with come curves or twists to help hold some of the ingredients. Let the pasta cool but it should be at room temperature when you assemble and dress the salad. Try to use some greens such as baby arugula, watercress sprigs or baby spinach. The one or two add-ins should add a punch such as capers, olives, fresh herbs, red onion, scallions or toasted pine nuts. The amount of cheese (if you use cheese) should be 1/2 to 1 cup. Don't dress the salad until 10 to 15 minutes before serving then taste just before serving and if it needs to be perked up, add a squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper.

I still wanted to serve fried chicken but decided to make the dinner a bit more like a picnic menu. So we had a pasta salad with summer vegetables and a bowl of fresh cut fruit like mango and melon. I also made a Key Lime Pie....again the recipe is from Fine Cooking back in 2004. It is really an easy recipe when you cheat and buy a crumb crust.

We ate in the patio with a cool breeze. Lots of talk about Mexico and places we want to go back to or places we have yet to go. Good friends, good conversation, and even if I do say so myself, good food.


pitchertaker said...

Oh, stop it already. You're killing me! Neither me nor my computer can stand any more of this drooling.....sigh.

The Hungry Pitchertaker

Heather said...

Haven't been able to pop by and see how things are going in your neck of the woods. Mmmmm I love pasta salad. I made some for a light dinner the other night. I thought the same thing too that I love just knowing a formula where you can pop in whatever vegetables are looking good that day.