Oven roasted pecans with maple syrup

oven raosted pecans

I bought raw grocery store pecans recently. Guests were arriving and I wanted something to nibble with our wine.

Once home, I discovered the pecans were ho hum both in texture and in taste; they were a chore to chew and rather bland.

Turning on the oven and roasting them transformed tasteless raw pecans into something remarkable, sophisticated and complex.

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Easy summer eating: pasta salad, two ways

pasta salad made with soba noodles

pasta salad, soba noodles

pasta salad, soba noodles

Common knowledge suggests people eat less when it’s hot.

After a recent string of hot breezy summer days, I answered the call for lighter fare with pasta salad. I was reminded what a great dish it is for hot weather, and how well it lends itself to variations.

pasta salad made with rotini

pasta salad

 

pasta salad

Regardless of the type of pasta salad you choose to make, here are a few things I learned about how to make it taste great.

  • Give your salad flavour right from the get-go by boiling your pasta in heavily salted water.
  • Short pasta shapes, like rotini, are good choices for pasta salad if you don’t want to eat by twirling with a fork. Their small size makes them easy to serve and eat, and their little folds and crevices provide plenty of spaces to trap dressing, herbs, and small ingredients.
  • Cook pasta until it’s just past al dente. Pasta hardens and gets more chewy as it cools so it needs to be cooked just right, soft but not mushy.
  • Drain pasta and rinse under warm not cold water. Once drained, transfer to a cookie sheet or large platter and dress with oil while it’s still warm.
  • Serve pasta salad at room temperature. It helps the pasta have a more appealing texture (no congealing of oils, no chewiness) and really lets the flavours loose. Make sure you don’t let it sit out for more than a couple hours to avoid food-poisoning.
  • Good quality oils like extra virgin olive oil and are just the ticket. So are fresh herbs and nuts.
  • Don’t dress the salad all at once. Keep some of the dressing and pour it on right before serving.

summer eating, pasta salad

pasta salad, summer eating

Soba Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing

250 grams soba noodles

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 cup julienned carrots (I used the ones that come in a bag already prepared)

1 cup fresh coriander, chopped

1/2 cup chopped unsalted peanuts

1 inch piece of ginger, minced

juice of 1 lime

4 tablespoons sesame oil plus more for drizzling over noodles

1 generous spoonful peanut butter

2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

fresh mint for garnish

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Throw in the pasta, boil until just past al dente, drain and rinse under warm water. Transfer to a cookie sheet and drizzle with oil.

Chop the onions, and coriander. Add to bowl along with carrots and pasta.

Combine minced ginger, lime juice, peanut butter, sesame oil and tamari. Whisk well. Thin with warm water if needed.

Drizzle over the salad, add peanuts and toss well. Transfer to serving platter or bowl. Garnish with sprigs of fresh mint, a few extra chopped peanuts and serve.

If not serving right away, save some of the dressing and peanuts to add later, just before serving.

Tabouleh Inspired Pasta Salad with Preserved Lemon and Pine nuts

500 grams of pasta of your choice. I used gluten-free rotini made from corn

1 small container grape tomatoes, halved

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped

1 handful of fresh mint, chopped

1 half of a large red onion, chopped

1 clove of garlic, minced.

1/2 preserved lemon, finely chopped along with a good splash of the brine. Or, the juice of 1 lemon

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup pine nuts

crumbled goat feta (optional)

freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Throw in the pasta, boil until just past al dente, drain and rinse under warm water. Transfer to a cookie sheet and drizzle with oil.

Chop the tomatoes, parsley, mint, and onion and add to a bowl along with pasta.

Combine minced garlic cloves, chopped preserved lemon, brine, oil and pepper. If using lemon juice, add sea salt to taste. Drizzle over the salad and toss well. Mix in pine nuts and serve.

Crumble goat feta for folks to sprinkle on top (opptional).

If not serving right away, save the pine nuts and some of the dressing to add later, just before serving.