In a typical winter, we'd be tromping through snow banks, shoveling our paths, digging out our cars, waiting for the plow guy to come and extricate our driveway. This year (and I don't mean to jinx us by saying this), we've had February days warm enough for T-shirts and sidewalk café dining. Everything here in southern New England seems out of season; if you don't believe me, wander in my garden, where rosemary, thyme, oregano and even parsley still show some green. It's not quite as warm here as the Greek Isles, but the sight of fresh herbs in my mid-winter garden makes me crave Mediterranean flavors. For this Greek pasta salad, I reached into the pantry for the sun-dried tomato vinaigrette ingredients. You might want to make extra dressing, to keep in the refrigerator for a quick sauce for warm pasta, a dip for crudites, or a sandwich slather.
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Earlier this summer, my husband Ted and I, and our friends Mary and Matt, snagged lawn tickets to hear James Taylor in concert at Tanglewood, in the beautiful Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts. Picnics, complete with candles and wine, are de rigeur at Tanglewood, and our annual tradition involves shopping at Guido's Fresh Marketplace in Pittsfield for salads, cheese, and fruit for our picnic basket. On a hunch, we bought a double portion of cold sesame noodles, and I'm glad we did; we ate every bit. When a dish grabs hold of your taste memory and won't let go, you must beg, borrow or steal the recipe and make that dish your own.
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Cold pasta salad -- three words that strike fear in the hearts of buffet diners everywhere. No way, not me, can't stand it, they say. I understand. Nobody likes pasta drowning in dressing. So, if you think you'd rather get a root canal than eat pasta salad, I promise you that this recipe will change your mind. The secret? Pour off excess dressing not absorbed by the warm pasta, and add it back in right before you serve. Perfect for picnics and potlucks, this tortellini and shrimp salad makes a hearty main course. Omit the shrimp and add more vegetables for an equally satisfying vegetarian version.
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When the weather is hot and the kitchen is hotter, and cooking is the last thing you want to do, reach into your pantry and you'll find almost everything you need for this healthy shrimp and edamame salad with its tangy sesame ginger vinaigrette. Stores like Trader Joe's and Costco sell bags of shelled edamame, cooked or ready-to-cook, and while I don't consider edamame (soybeans) a pantry staple, I often keep a bag on hand. Frozen shrimp are an indispensable fixture in my pantry, and all of the ingredients in the dressing also have permanent residence here. After my friend Chelsea and I made and photographed this salad, and ate it for lunch, we thought some black sesame seeds sprinkled on for garnish would have looked nice. When you make this, go ahead and sprinkle.
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