Well, after 10 days in the Pacific Northwest, a graduation, and the acquisition of a job (!), Matt & I returned to a very stuffy, muggy, icky, hot Minnesota. Thankfully I will be leaving via jet plane next Monday to begin said job. Matt procured an air conditioner last night so that he can attempt to sleep through the night for the rest of what is sure to be an almost intolerably hot summer.
All that being said I am interested in eating only cold light dishes that require little to no oven prep as the apartment is already a sweltering 80+ degrees. The following have sustained us this week and are delicious, light, and blissfully easy.
Mediterranean Pasta Salad
What you need:
1 small package cherry tomatoes
5oz block of feta cheese, or 5oz crumbled feta
15ish pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 lb or 1/2 box of shapped pasta, I like rigatoni (the corkscrew kind)
White Wine Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
What you do:
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. While you are waiting for water to boil, peel cucumbers, cut lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. Slice each half into three long strips, then dice crosswise to create cubes. Place cubed cucumber in a large bowl. Wash tomatoes and split lengthwise with a knife, add to cucumbers. Crumble feta into bowl as well. Chop olives to desired fineness and add to mixture. Toss the whole lot gently with a spoon or your hand.
When water comes to a boil, add pasta. When pasta is cooked al dente (a bite should be firm but not crunchy), pour water and pasta into sink over strainer. Carefully run cold, cold water over pasta tossing gently until pasta and strainer are cold to the touch. Be sure to check all the way through pasta, heat spots will remain and if you aren't thorough will melt your cheese.
Add pasta to veggie, cheese mixture. In a separate bowl mix 1/4 cup olive oil with 1/4 cup white wine vinegar (I like a really tangy, lightly dressed salad so this is how I do, if this isn't your style adjust accordingly. Conventional wisdom is 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar). Add 1 tbsp dried oregano (or more!) and salt and pepper generously. Combine dressing briskly with a fork. Dump over pasta-veg mixture, and stir and toss gingerly. Cover bowl and refrigerate until the whole thing is well chilled. Great as a side or alone. I even garnish with a bit of lemon juice sometimes (I love me some acid, clearly).
Romain Strawberry Sesame Salad
What you need:
1 bag hearts of Romain
1 quart strawberries
Rice Wine Vinegar
Optional additions: crunchy Asian noodles of any kind, sliced or diced chicken, avocado, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pea pods, shredded carrot, whatever else you have floating around your kitch...
What you do:
(I make these by the plateful, a plate serves as a meal for one or as a side for two. The following describes how to assemble salad for 1 plate.)
On a cutting board, cut the end off of 1 heart of Romain. Discard end and continue slicing heart of Romain crosswise at about .5 inch intervals. When sliced rinse in a strainer, and shake to dry lettuce leaves, or spin in spinner.
Once leaves are dry, place them on a plate or in a large salad bowl. Slice four to five strawberries lengthwise, after carefully removing the stems. Place on top of lettuce. Sprinkle whole plate with about 1/2 tbsp of sesame seeds. Add whatever else you desire to top of salad...
In a small bowl measure 1 tsp white sugar, 2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp white wine vinegar, and 1/4 tsp sesame oil. Mix together vigorously with a fork. Taste and adjust to personal liking. (This can be made very nicely with a dash of orange juice also).
Pour dressing over salad and dig in. Watch that you don't slop all over yourself, because it is delicious and easy to get carried away. :)