Do you make pasta salads? Or do they bring to mind visions of mushy pasta in a greasy slick of mayonnaise? Pasta salads can be some of the freshest, most summery foods in your repertoire, and they also are the perfect lunch food — they keep for days in the refrigerator and are a little meal all in themselves. Here's one from my own kitchen: A fresh salad tossed with olive oil, cauliflower, and bright green edamame.
This is a very pretty salad; it's green and fresh, and summer comfort food at its best. I love orecchiette for pasta salads. These small bites of pasta hold vegetables and dressing very well, their ridged backsides collecting oil and herbs. The hollow fronts of the orecchiette each cradle a piece of edamame, which reminds me of miner's lettuce, or claytonia, with a colorful sprig just in the center of their face.
I take a tip here from Sarah Rae's note on adding frozen vegetables to hot pasta. It saves you a step; the cold edamame quickly thaws in the hot pasta, and it also cools down the pasta, keeping it from turning steamed and gummy.
I dress the salad with a light dressing of olive oil and lemon juice, with a touch of soy and maple syrup. A big handful of chopped mint joins a block of feta cheese, one for herbed flavor and the other for a salty creaminess.
This salad lasts for days in the refrigerator, and it won't wilt on the picnic buffet. The vegetables are sturdy, and the flavor just gets better as the salad comes to room temperature.
serves 8 to 10
1 pound orecchiette
16 ounces shelled frozen edamame
1 medium head cauliflower
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 lemons, juiced (about 1/4 cup)
1 cup mint sprigs, loosely packed
2 bunches green onions, green parts only
8 ounces feta cheese, drained of excess liquid
Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring a 4-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook for 11 minutes, or until al dente. Drain and place the pasta in a large mixing bowl. Add the frozen edamame and toss to combine. Set aside.
Refill the pot and add salt to the water. Set over high heat. While waiting the water to come to a boil, chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets, discarding the leaves and tough stem. When the water boils, add the cauliflower and cook until just tender — about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain into a colander and let cool.
Whisk the olive oil, soy sauce, maple syrup, and lemon juice together in a glass measuring cup. Pour over the pasta and edamame and toss.
Tear the mint leaves from their stems, and roughly chop the leaves. Chop the green stems of the green onions into 1/2-inch pieces, and finely chop the drained feta cheese. Toss the mint, green onion, feta, and drained cauliflower with the pasta and the dressing.
Taste — depending on how much salt was in the water you may not need much more — and add salt and pepper to taste.
Serve warm, lukewarm, or cold. This will keep very well in the refrigerator for a week or more.
More Pasta Salads from The Kitchn
(Images: Faith Durand)