26 July 2012

Pasta Salad - Perfect Picnic Main Dish - And Onion Goggles


Pasta salad as a main dish is something we especially enjoy during the summer months. Good at any temperature, it's the perfect picnic food. Just add a loaf of crusty artisan bread and a bottle of your favorite picnic wine.

But before we get to the recipe, I have to tell you about a fabulous item I should have gotten years ago--no, decades ago! It's a wonder I still have all my fingers. I haven't sliced or chopped onions with my eyes open since I don't know when. I just chop away, eyes closed, tears streaming down my face, hoping for the best. So far, so good. 

Then one day I decided to try onion goggles (I know! If you are an onion crier like me, you must have just sighed "Yyyess, why didn't I think of that!"). When I announced I would be getting a pair for review from King Arthur Flour, my husband said "I've got some goggles you can try" and dug out some old snorkeling goggles that would have been swell if they didn't cover the nose.

Well, the KAF onion goggles do not cover the nose. They are, in fact, much like a pair of glasses, but close-fitting around the edges to keep the onion fumes out. And, boy, do they work! Funny, the onion slicing didn't take as long as usual. I slice and dice a lot faster with my eyes open!

But back to the salad ... It's really versatile. In fact, I could put the word "optional" after every item on the ingredient list. There was no local asparagus available at this time, so I skipped it. Had some frozen organic peas, so threw those in (no cooking or thawing required). You can even throw in some diced ham, chicken or leftover grilled vegetables.

What is your favorite pasta shape for pasta salad? Mine is the mezze (mini) penne. Do you have a trick for chopping onions, or are you one of the fortunate few who are not onion criers?

Pasta Salad

(Serves 6)

1-pound package mezze (mini) penne pasta
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 6-ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained (or not)
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
Salt and coarsely-ground black pepper
3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 large red bell pepper, julienned
1/3 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes, plumped in a little hot water
6 ounces baby yellow squash, halved lengthwise
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
6 ounces thin asparagus, each spear cut into 1½-inch pieces
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
18 fresh basil leaves (or 0.66-ounce package), thinly sliced


1 In Dutch oven, start boiling salted water for pasta. Meanwhile, in large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and start slowly cooking sliced onion. 

2 Cook pasta according to package directions; drain in colander and return to Dutch oven. Stir into pasta 2 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar. Add cooked onions to pasta, along with artichoke hearts. You should probably not drain the marinated artichoke hearts; I just do it to get rid of some of the garlic since I am semi-allergic to it.

3 Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and cook mushrooms, seasoning with salt and pepper and 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce. Add cooked mushrooms to pasta.

4 Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet and cook sliced red bell pepper and sun-dried tomatoes, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and crisp-tender peppers to pasta, along with 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce.

5 Add 2 cups water to skillet, bring to boil, add asparagus (except tips) and cook, covered, for 1 minute. Add tips and cook another minute. Remove from water with slotted spoon and add to pasta, along with 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.

6 Add Parmesan and fresh basil to pasta. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve immediately at room temperature, or refrigerate for 3 hours or more to serve chilled.

24 comments:

Angela said...

I had to Google onion goggles to see what you were talking about. They are actually kind of stylish:)

Jean said...

I know! I was kind of surprised at how "normal" they looked. Love 'em!

Karen Downie Makley said...

I, too, was a crier for many years. Then, all of a sudden, I was completely immune to onion fumes. What changed with me? I had gotten contact lenses! Apparently, the lens over your eye keeps the onion fumes out, too! Interesting bit of science, I thought.

Jean said...

Wow! I'm so glad you told me that. That's one of those interesting factoids I just love! I was never able to wear contact lenses for more than a couple hours, so I never had them in while chopping onions.

Angie's Recipes said...

Jean, this is indeed a perfect picnic dish. Great click.
The onion goggles actually look pretty fine. I know some people use swim goggles ;-)

Eileen said...

The onion goggles are a good idea...except if you're as short- sighted as I am. As they don't fit over a pair of specs, I wouldn't be able to see what I was doing! No streaming eyes, probably no fingers either:-)

Jean said...

Angie, thank you! Wish I had some right now - I actually like it for breakfast! Swim goggles would probably work too for those who don't mind the feeling of a strap around their head.

Jean said...

Eileen, that's true. Maybe you could try something like aluminum foil around the edges of your glasses?

Lisa @ The Cooking Bride said...

Just saw this on Foodgawker. It looks so good, I wish I had a plate of this in front of me right now!

Jean said...

Thanks, Lisa! And I love it when people tell me how they found my blog.

Thomas "Sully" Sullivan said...

Other than the pasta, the artichokes, the asparagus and the squash, I love everything about this salad. Those are my optional items, and I've substituted Mandarin oranges, cheese, bacon bits and raspberry vinaigrette (I'm working on chocolate, but it's a hard sell to even my taste buds). I'm wearing goggles, a gas mask, and yellow spats with Bert and Ernie decals, but I'm still crying. Do you put the onions inside the goggles or out? And I'd be careful about using your husband's swimming goggles. He used to walk into walls with those things on. Plus I've seen him swim off Belle Isle with them, and the walleyes used to chase him. Just sayin’.

Jean said...

It's not a pretty picture. Thanks for the warning - I better stick with the official onion goggles!

Southerner said...

Sounds lovely. Just right for an English summers day. Perhaps something to picnic with in The Lakes.

So you are a northern lass!
You must name some dish after Ullswater. There are probably local Lake District recipes ready to try and explore.

All the best,
Tony

Jean said...

Thanks, Tony. Yes, I'm a northern lass! Good idea to name a dish after Ullswater - must think about that.

Anonymous said...

Great idea about the goggles. I
have safety glasses that I think are very much the same. However, I seem
to only have trouble when cutting up white onions. Yellow ones don't
bother me much. I also have one of those little contraptions where you
put a part of an onion in and push down on the lid and the voile! the
onion is chopt. Unfortunately, last Friday I had too big a hunk of onion
for it to chop, evidently, and when I pushed down with both hands and
put my upper body into it, I tore cartilage in my ribs! So it's back to
the knife and a cutting board for me.

The pasta salad looks delicious. Unfortunately, I really love pasta and
although I use Tinkyada GF pasta, I still have to really work at trying
to find borders, so I don't eat too much of it. Pasta salad is on my
menu for this week - and maybe I'll use this one. It sure looks wonderful!

Judy
http://cranberrymorning.blogspot.com

Jean said...

Judy, you are probably the only person in the world who has sustained a non-cut injury while chopping an onion! I hope you're good as new very soon!

I really like the Tinkyada GF pastas.

Mary said...

This is a beautiful pasta dish, Jean. (and I LOVE that fork btw!) I love everything in this meal. Have a great afternoon!

Jean said...

Thank you, Mary! I'm glad you like the fork too!

Sippity Sup said...

I have never been susceptible to the onion tear. But my mom was. She used to light a match, Blow it out. Then put in between her teeth. Burnt end under her nose. She swore the burnt tip did something to combat onion tears. GREG

Jean said...

Thanks, Greg! I'm sure I'll get an opportunity to try that since I always end up cooking everywhere I go, and I don't imagine I'll be carrying my onion goggles at all times.

Danielle said...

This looks so yummy--I had to bookmark the page and look forward to making it! :)

Jean said...

Thanks, Danielle! I hope you like it as much as we do.

Agness of Run Agness Run said...

I love this pasta salad! Keep up the great work, Jean!

Jean | DelightfulRepast.com said...

Thank you, Agness. (BTW, you are only the second Agness with two s's I've ever heard of; the first one, being one of my ancestresses!)

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