Wednesday, June 6, 2012


This recipe showed up in my Inbox bright and early this morning, from Lynne Rossetto Kasper at The Splendid Table's "Weeknight Kitchen." Kasper got the recipe from The Fresh & Green Table: Delicious Ideas for Bringing Vegetables Into Every Meal by Susie Middleton. It sounded so good I decided on the spot that it would be dinner tonight. I didn't have all the ingredients, so I had to do some improvising, but it still tasted wonderful.

Everything goes in raw except the pasta, so the timing is easy: Prep ahead, then cook the pasta when you're ready to eat. For fun, add a few whole pepperoncini. You don't have to include them but they would add a nice heat.
The Ingredients.
1/4 cup mild extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon black olive tapenade
1 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 small red onion (about 4 ounces), cut lengthwise into very thin slices
1 14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and cut into 4 or 6 pieces
8 ounces small grape tomatoes, halved (about 1-3/4 cups)
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
4 ounces good-quality creamy feta cheese (Kasper likes French Valbreso), crumbled
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
8 ounces dried gemelli or other curly pasta
4 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 5 cups)
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts
12 to 16 small whole pepperoncini, drained (about 2 ounces)
The Directions.
1. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, lemon zest, tapenade, honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of pepper. Add the red onion, artichoke hearts, grape tomatoes, olives, feta, and 1 tablespoon oregano and toss well. Let the mixture sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the gemelli and cook until al dente, or according to the package instructions. Drain well in a colander but do not rinse. Transfer the warm pasta to the mixing bowl with the dressing and vegetables and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the spinach leaves, the remaining 1 tablespoon of oregano, the toasted walnuts, and the pepperoncini and toss well. (The feta will loosen up and coat the pasta.) Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if needed.
3. Serve right away.
The Verdict.
Hmm, let's see. I didn't have olive tapenade, or kalamata olives, but I did have regular black and green olives. Tossed 'em in. I didn't have fresh oregano, so I used dried (added it to the olive oil-vinegar mixture). I used rotini pasta. Didn't have walnuts so I used sunflower seeds. I thought I had pepperocini, but alas, I did not. That probably sounds like a lot of substitutions but it was a great salad and I'm sure it would be even better with ALL of the ingredients in Susie Middleton's recipe. I think my favorite ingredient was the lemon zest. It gave the whole salad a light, fresh, summery flavor. This was a perfect summer supper. YUM!

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