From our food contributor, Shaina Olmanson.
Some evening meals require simplicity. They are the evenings when I’ve stood in my kitchen, sans air conditioning, feeling the heat condense on my skin as I look in the cupboards and attempted to choose a heat-less meal twice already that day.
They are evenings when the day has been one obstacle to climb after another. It’s when each child has separately skinned their knee on the driveway in four isolated incidents, each involving band-aids. It’s for days when even the excitement of a long-awaited package arrival ends in disappointment as it is opened to reveal a wrong item and a note indicating an “upgrade.”
This meal isn’t flashy. It’s honest and good. It’s your basic caprese salad, the one with the thick slices of summer tomatoes and too white mozzarella, full leaves of sweet basil, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil and balsamic – a summer essential. It’s that salad with a few extras. Pasta and green onions are invited, and if it’s a meal on its own, add a bit of protein in the way of beans or leftover chicken, shredded and tossed directly into the mix. It’s served in one bowl with one spoon, and it can be eaten on the patio or on a picnic blanket with slices of watermelon and a jug of iced tea. It can be tucked into a thermos and carried along to school or camp or off to the beach.
In my repertoire of summer meals, I tend to rely on salads more than anything. This year’s has been an ode to simple pasta salads and a leafy salad with a hearty helping of quinoa dumped in for good measure. They’re simple, but they’re pulled together enough to be carried to a neighborhood barbecue or a family gathering where they’ll disappear on the buffet table in short order. You won’t regret doubling the recipe here.
Tomorrow, when you climb out of bed and feel the breeze coming through the open window, the world will feel new. And there will be leftover salad in the refrigerator for lunch.
- 8 ounces small pasta (in shape of your choice)
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup fresh basil (packed tightly)
- 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 cups fresh mozzarella pearls
- 2 green onions, diced
- 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Add-ins: shredded chicken, chickpeas, white beans, grilled peaches
- Cook the pasta according to the box directions with the kosher salt in the water. Drain, rinse with cold water, place it in a large bowl, and chill.
- Make a chiffonade of basil by stacking the basil leaves on top of one another, rolling tightly, and slicing very thin strips.
- Once the pasta is chilled, add the grape tomato halves, the mozzarella pearls, green onions, and the basil to the bowl.
- In a separate bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, Dijon, and the sea salt. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the pasta and toss to coat evenly. Stir in any additional add-ins to make this a meal on its own or serve as is.