We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Retro-Style: Michelle's Big Bowl Pasta Salad and A Bad Romance

by Michelle
"You and me could write a bad romance." ~Lady GaGa 
Bob and I during our happier times while on vacation in Cumberland, Maryland circa 1987.

   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.
   It was difficult when we broke up, as such things always are, but the difficulty was compounded because my parents, who were still together at the time, absolutely adored my ex and they hoped we'd stay together. Bob has a good sense of humor and was easy to be around, for the most part, if you weren't dating him and didn't mention the word commitment. Otherwise, it was good times. I have happy memories of traveling to Maryland to visit his mom and then sightseeing in our nation's capital. At home, we regularly camped at Barlett Lake near Phoenix (yes, I did camp in my younger years), and we'd fly across smooth water in his speed boat—which he constantly tinkered with in his garage. The boat spent more time in pieces in his garage than on the lake—but, hey—it looked pretty cool.

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.
   Bob and I visited my sister Linda and her boys in Solvang, California one year for Christmas when she lived in the cute little cottage with a big grassy yard and weathered picket fence. Flowers bordered the entrance leading to the front gate and a fragrant honeysuckle vine grew over the front porch. Linda was married to her high school sweetheart at the time—sadly that relationship didn't last either. Neither did that of my parents. When my parents separated after more than 35 years of marriage, my Dad moved in with Bob for awhile—how is that for weird? Especially since I was newly married at the time.

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.
   As of late, I've been delving into a trove of photos both new and old. Some are very old; of my great-great-great grandparents even. I know people who throw their memories away. I can't bring myself to do that, no matter how mad I've been at the time. I kept all the photos that I have of Bob and me to remember the good times. Of when I was young, trying to find my way in the world, determining what I wanted from a partner and from life. It's interesting to look back over twenty-five years and to reflect on how my life has unfolded and to contemplate the results of the choices I've made along the way. I'm glad I kept the photos that trigger the memories of our time together, and that I can look back upon them and him with fondness from this distant vista in time, because there was a time when I would have loved to have thrown an entire bowl of pasta salad in the direction of Bob's head. Now—twenty-something years later—I'm happy to to share the recipe with him, without even a shade of acrimony.

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!
   Old recipes are like old friends, too. My repertoire of recipes, like friends on my Christmas list, can vary over the years. Both recipes and friends can be all the rage one year and off the list the next. I look at the faded recipe printed in a "family heritage" cookbook that I put together to give for Christmas presents in 1991 and think, wow, nobody eats pasta salad anymore. A growing number of people don't eat wheat, or gluten, or carbs in general.
   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.
   When I received the Facebook message from Bob letting me know that he had looked at Salvation Sisters, and subsequently was disappointed that his favorite pasta salad was not among the many recipes we've posted to date, I was immediately drawn back in time—to former kitchens and homes, and of cooking pasta salad for family and friends that no longer gather. And, while pasta salad really is not in vogue, I bet it will come around again, like high-waisted jeans. Wait... my daughter just bought a pair of high-waisted jeans. Maybe it's time for pasta salad to become fashionable again, too—just in time for potluck season.

What's for dinner? Pasta salad and herb-rubbed grilled chicken.
Retro-Style: Michelle's Big Bowl Pasta Salad

   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.
Regular or Gluten-Free Pasta:
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.
Italian Dressing:
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.
Ranch Dressing:
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. 
2. To make the Ranch Dressing: Mix all the dry ingredients together and store in container, out of sunlight, away from moisture and heat. The mixture will keep for six months, if stored properly. To prepare the dressing, combine 1 tablespoon dry mix with 1/3 cup mayonnaise or sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, then add buttermilk to desired consistency (up to 1/3 cup). I find it helps to let the dressing rest for about an hour in the refrigerator before using giving time for the dry ingredients to fully hydrate.

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.
3. Cook pasta in separate batches, according to manufacturer's directions until al dente. After each batch, drain, rinse with cold water to stop cooking process, drain again, and transfer to a large bow. Immediately pour some of the Italian dressing over the hot noodles to marinate. Stir to distribute the dressing. Add minced red onions. Let rest for 20 minutes. Add more dressing and stir. The pasta will continue to absorb the dressing while cooling. Season with salt and pepper (or lemon pepper). If making ahead, at this point, you can cover the bowl, and put in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

I boiled and dressed the pasta the night before and then continued with the recipe the next morning.
4. When ready to proceed with the recipe, drizzle a portion of ranch dressing over the pasta and stir to coat evenly. Add fresh and marinated vegetables and beans. Stir well. Add ranch dressing as desired until the pasta is coated well. Add shredded cheese, ham or salami and additional seasonings. Stir again. Refrigerate. Before serving, check the salad. If it is too dry, add a little more ranch dressing before serving.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...