"You and me could write a bad romance." ~Lady GaGa
I am publishing this recipe by special request for my ex-boyfriend, Bob. Who, after we broke up, I thought I would never, ever, ever in a million years speak to again. Ever. Yet, here we are today, many years down the road, connected again through Facebook. I suppose the old adage is true that time heals all wounds. Well, perhaps most, but maybe not all. As for Bob and I, we buried the hatchet many years ago, and happily, not in each other's backs.
|In the late 80s, Bob and I, and sometimes our family, and friends, including |
our co-ed softball team would camp on the shores of Bartlett Lake in Arizona.
|Bob's truck, speed boat and a smattering of friends. |
I unfortunately tried to water ski behind that boat, but only once. I lived to tell the tale.
|Yours truly in camping mode. I loved that hat, an Indiana Jones-style fedora.|
My daughter needed photographic proof to believe my camping stories.
|A rail yard located near Bob's home town of Cumberland, Maryland.|
Imagine this… we even played co-ed softball for a team sponsored by Harvey Wineburger, and we'd go with our team after every game to drink beer and devour hamburgers. We would play pool at our sponsor's dive bar/restaurant, and I mean "dive" in a good way. No frills and lots of fun and it didn't matter much if you spilled some beer on the floor. It was kind of like Cheers, but with hamburgers—everyone knew our names.
|Christmas 1986 in Solvang with a beautiful breakfast made by Linda and served in her living room.|
From left: Papa, my dad, uncle Pat, my Mom, Linda, Nana, Michelle (me) and Bob.
|A visit to Surf Beach during Christmas 1986.|
From left: Bob, me, dad, mom, Joshua (standing), Jordan, Linda, Juliette and Paul in stroller.
|The Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington D.C. is modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.|
|Bob captured this photo of me near the entrance of the Smithsonian.|
|A bird's eye view of the Lincoln Memorial.|
|What was I thinking with this clothing ensemble? Linda commented it is the worst outfit ever!|
This pasta salad made it through the low-fat fad years by switching to non-fat or low-fat versions of both dressings. I'm back to eating fat, and limiting carbs, but gluten is mostly out. Fortunately, there is gluten-free pasta widely available to make an easy conversion. The one thing that hasn't changed over the years is the impression the pasta salad left on Bob. Good food can do that—leave a lasting imprint upon the brain, which honestly can be quite vexing, and leads me to think of the Rolling Stone's lyrics, "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes well you might find, you get what you need."
|The Baltimore Harbor on a foggy November day in Maryland.|
At the time, I was pretty proud of myself when I spliced two photos together to create a panorama.
|Back in the day, when I had more time, I cut and pasted—literally—myself into this photo.|
|What's for dinner? Pasta salad and herb-rubbed grilled chicken.|
I have included mixes to make the dressings at home based upon copy cat recipes found on-line and in books. I make my own to avoid some of the commercial ingredients listed on the label. If you have no such concerns, or allergies, then by all mean feel free to buy a packet of Seven Seas Italian Dressing and mix a packet according to the directions, with water, red wine vinegar and oil. I have tried using other Italian dressings, including the more pungent balsamic dressings and none - not one homemade or store bought - taste as good as the Seven Seas Italian Dressing made from the packet. Why fight it? It's just the way it is.
Same goes for Ranch Dressing. Except that the additives in the Ranch Dressing mix seem to be much, much worse, than the Seven Seas Italian Dressing. The major commercial brand for the bottled dressing has a horrible list of ingredients that I'd rather not ingest on purpose. I can vouch for the dry mix below.
Sometimes I like to divide and conquer to prepare this recipe. The night before, I will cook all the pastas according to package directions. After each pasta is drained, and rinsed and transferred to a large mixing bowl, I toss the hot pasta with some of the vinaigrette. When all the pastas are in the bowl, I add the last of the vinaigrette and let cool. Then, I cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. Lastly, I whip up a double batch of the ranch dressing and let it rest over night in the refrigerator. The next morning, I finish the salad and let it rest (covered) in the refrigerator until serving time.
My original note on the pasta salad recipe reads, "Serves about a million people. Great for parties and lasts many days in the refrigerator."
|Drain artichoke hearts and if whole, cut into quarters.|
Really, any mix of pastas will do. The selection should be colorful with a combination of textures. For a gluten-free alternative to the tortellini, try small ravioli. There are many tasty varieties of gluten-free pastas widely available, so go with your favorite brands and styles and you can't go wrong. Here's what I recommend:
one 12-oz package multicolored pasta mix, such as fusilli or radiatore
one 16-oz package shell-shaped or tubular pasta, such as ziti, macaroni or bowtie
two 10-oz package cheese or pesto tortellini or gluten-free ravioli
|From fresh shredded carrot and minced red bell pepper...|
|...to dried carrot and red bell pepper.|
|I made the mix in bulk, so I could save a portion and gift some portions. |
You may choose to halve the recipe.
Note: In this quantity the recipe called for adding 1/3 cup pectin, which is used as a thickener. Pectin is commonly used to make jams and jellies and is stocked in the baking isle of most grocery stores. I noticed on the package of Seven Seas that the ingredients lists no longer includes pectin. The dressing is now thickened with a combination of xanthan gum, guar gum and sodium citrate. Although it is just shy of 1/3 cup, I used a 1.75-ounce box of SureJell Premium Fruit Pectin.
Additional on-line research of emulsifiers led me to the blog of Richard Hanley Jr., who investigated a number of thickeners for his commercial dressing. He shares in a video his observations through trial and error that guar gum breaks down in the presence of acids, so is not the best choice for vinaigrettes. Richard's experiments led him to choose xanthan gum (although he did not test pectin). As little as 1/8 to 1/4 tsp of xanthan gum will thicken a dressing recipe.
A mix similar to Seven Seas Italian Dressing Mix:
1/3 cup (about 1 small to medium) carrot, peeled, shredded and minced
1/3 cup (about 1/2 medium red bell pepper), minced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup dry fruit pectin (do not buy liquid pectin; I used SureJell Premium Fruit Pectin)
3 Tbsps sea salt
1 Tbsp lemon pepper
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1-1/2 tsps onion powder
1-1/2 tsps black pepper
1-1/2 tsps parsley flakes
1-1/2 tsps dried oregano
1-1/2 tsps dried basil
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp celery salt
Additional Dressing Ingredients:
about 1/4 cup water
about 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
about 1 cup olive oil
|Ranch Dressing whisked together with a homemade mix.|
Note: The original recipe at Gimme Some Oven (which I altered only slightly) called for dry buttermilk mixed with milk. I made it this way once, but found that I still preferred using fresh buttermilk regardless if I used dried milk powder or dried buttermilk. You may ask if the buttermilk powder is needed at all if I like using fresh buttermilk? Perhaps not, but I do think that the dry milk or buttermilk powder gives the final dressing a better mouth feel and helps stabilize it.
A mix similar to Hidden Valley® Ranch Dressing Mix:
1/3 cup dry milk powder or buttermilk powder
2 Tbsps dried parsley
1-1/2 tsps dill
2 tsps garlic powder
2 tsps onion powder
2 tsps dried onion flakes
1-1/2 tsps sea salt
1-1/2 tsps dried chives
1 tsp lemon pepper
1 tsp black pepper
Additional Dressing Ingredients:
about 2 cups mayonnaise
about 2 cups buttermilk
1 red onion, diced finely
1 red bell pepper, seeded, sliced and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, sliced and diced
1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 14-oz cans or jars marinated or brine packed artichoke hearts, drained, and cut into quarters
2 10-oz cans or jars marinated or brine packed mushrooms, drained, and quartered or sliced
8-oz (1/2 package) frozen corn, defrosted
8-oz (1/2 package) frozen green peas, defrosted
1 6-oz can extra-large black olives, drained, sliced into rounds
about 1/2 cup slivered peperoncini
1/2 pound cheddar cheese, grated, Tillamook® preferred
1/3 pound ham, shaved and diced, or salami, sliced (optional)
1/4 cup freshly minced Italian parsley
3 Tbsps capers, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chiffonade of basil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
|Drain and rinse the beans and allow to dry.|
|Quickly defrost frozen corn and peas in water, then drain thoroughly.|
1. To make the Italian Dressing: Place the carrot and bell pepper on a parchment-lined baking pan and place in the oven. Set the temperature to 250 F for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until all the small pieces are completely dry, but not browned. Remove and let the dried vegetables reach room temperature. You should have 3 tablespoons of the dehydrated veges. In a small bowl, mix together the salt, pepper and herbs with the dried vegetables. Store in a tightly sealed container away from light, moisture and heat.
To prepare the dressing, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the dry mix, plus 3 tablespoons water, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 1/2 cup olive oil. The dressing benefits from resting a spell in the refrigerator. Note: If you did not use pectin in your dry mix, then add 1/8 to 1/4 tsp xanthan gum to thicken the dressing. Alternatively, you could also add 1 tsp of Dijon mustard as a thickening agent in lieu of the pectin or xanthan gum.
|Mixing the ingredients together for homemade Ranch Dressing.|
|We sisters grew up eating sandwiches made with Tillamook cheese and wheat bread spread |
thin with a swipe of mayonnaise and mustard to cover. It's still my favorite cheddar cheese.
|I boiled and dressed the pasta the night before and then continued with the recipe the next morning.|