2-9: Pasta Salad

Howdy, y’all–it’s been a minute since we’ve last met. Like everyone else in the world, things can get busy/stressful/overwhelming for me at times and then unfortunately this project takes a backseat. I’ve still been making recipes here and there though, and I’ve got a few built up to share with you. I can’t promise a robust posting schedule (count me as partly responsible for the death of blogs) but I’ll do my best.

To kick things off, here’s 2-9: Pasta Salad, one from the new book. Ugh, I WANT that kitschy 70s flower/watering can picture–if I found it in a thrift store, it’d definitely be coming home with me. I’ll take those FABULOUS flower-shaped plates too.

I love that this is such a time-capsule of an era where we fully embraced carbs–I don’t know of too many people today that would classify pasta as “nutritious”. We were just on the precipice of the ridiculous food pyramid of the 1990s at this point, where we were advised to eat 6-11 servings of carbs a day and stay far, far away from anything fatty (low-fat/high-sugar EVERYTHING was the result).

I also feel like Simply Delicious couldn’t figure out anything exciting to say about pasta salad, so they attempted to turn it into a half-assed history lesson. “He might have done it, maybe not, who knows! Have some pasta anyway!”

My elementary school education (which occurred around the same time) went pretty much the same way. Oh, the late 80s/early 90s.

Age is starting to creep up on me, and these days when I look at the nutritional information on recipes or products, I tend to take them a bit more seriously than I used to. The younger me considered them more of a personal challenge than a warning…ah, the trappings of youth.

All this to say: look at the sodium on this one–I think most of that is coming from the smoked ham and pickled cucumber, but the cheese and even the pasta are contributors as well. And if you have your pasta salad as a side with something like a hot dog or hamburger? Now you’re really getting up there.

Man, it sucks to get old.

Ingredients. I have a box of cavatappi pasta from Harris Teeter, which I found in my local Grocery Outlet (♫…bargain market…♫). I don’t live anywhere near where there’s a Harris Teeter (apparently it’s in the Southeast USA, which is the opposite end of the country from me), but somehow their pasta found its way here. I just think the name is fun–I also loved the name (and its associated market) King Soopers when I lived in Boulder, CO for a few years while going to college (SKO BUFFS).

I swapped out the suggested smoked ham for some meatless “ham” slices–these ones aren’t vegan (contains eggs), but they’re very delicious. You can find them in the frozen section. Cheese, sour cream, and mayo are all dairy-free/vegan. Those dark-looking fruits in the front are some purple tomatoes. Oh, and I swapped iceberg lettuce for some Romaine I had from our delivery box.

Started boiling my pasta.

While the pasta was cooking, I worked on the dressing.

I feel like doing that early and letting it sit for a minute helps meld the flavors better.

Also worked on chopping up the onion, pickle, and apple. I’m not happy about adding apple to this, but whatever.

Cooked pasta. I love cavatappi, it looks so fun.

Tossed the chopped bits into the dressing bowl.

After mixing. Now looking less appetizing.

As someone who worked a pantry station in a restaurant and broke down CASES of lettuce each day, using perfectly good lettuce as garnish/beds is INFURIATING to me. I can’t tell you how many times they took a perfectly good pan of leafed burger lettuce that I had worked hard on, threw it under some party platters full of fried goods to essentially serve as food carpeting, and then threw it out. THAT’S WHAT KALE IS FOR, ASK PIZZA HUT.

Starting the next layer of my pasta salad build. This thing is structured more like a network than a pasta salad.

Would the ham and cheese be the session layer, or the transport layer? Oh no…my actual day job is leaking into this.

I also HIGHLY disagree with this concept of pouring (or in this case, glopping) the dressing on the naked pasta, as opposed to mixing it all together. This whole thing is an affront to traditional pasta salad conventions.

Final plate, topped (begrudgingly) with the required tomato wedges. I do not like pasta salad that is built more like a salad bar fever dream than what I can get today at the local market. This would NOT be a repeat for me (without some major modifications).

Grade: C-