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04/16/2012

~ Shrimp and Pasta Salad w/Lemon-Garlic Dressing ~

6a0120a8551282970b01901c7381cf970bThis refreshing, satisfying main-dish pasta salad is a favorite of mine.  It's full of Greek-style flavors, which Joe and I love, and we especially enjoy eating it during the Summer, in place of a hot meal.  Besides that, it's perfect to serve when I'm entertaining outdoors and want something that holds up well in the heat.  Tonight, however, it's being served for dinner in Melanie's Kitchen for two practical reasons:  Over the past weekend, my family celebrated Russian Orthodox Easter, and, I have a few dozen cooked shrimp leftover in my refrigerator, and; the sun is out with the thermometer rising above 80º this afternoon.  It feels like Summertime here in Happy Valley. 

PICT2740A bit about pasta salad:  It's a dish prepared with one or more types of pasta and most often tossed in a vinegar, oil, or mayonnaise based dressing.  Besides pasta, almost anything can be added to pasta salad (raw, marinated or cooked in any manner):  fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, seafood, cheese, nuts, seeds, and/or herbs (to name a few).  It is usually served chilled as an appetizer or a main course in the Spring or Summertime, but can be enjoyed year-round too.  

PICT0015I usually make pasta salad just for the sake of making pasta salad, but it is a tasty way to make a meal out of leftovers too.  When properly prepared, pasta salad is awesome. When it is not properly prepared it is awful. Because I've tasted my share of awful pasta salad at picnics and potlucks over the years, whenever I teach a cooking class about outdoor entertaining or tailgating, I always try to include a pasta salad.  Here are my thoughts and tips about pasta salad in general:

IMG_7162Three tips for properly preparing pasta salad:

PICT27201)  1 pound of bite-sized pasta.  My favorite is called "Trio Italiano" and is a combination of tubes, spirals and small shells, which hold the dressing exceptionally well.  Cook as directed in salted water.  Drain it, and, unless the recipe specifically directs you to do otherwise, immediately rinse it under cold water, as pasta that is not rinsed gets sticky and gummy. Transfer it to a parchment-lined baking pan to cool completely and "dry", meaning: free from water, not dried out.

PICT27192)  1 1/2-2 1/2  pounds of additional "add-in" ingredients + fresh or dried herbs.  Use what you like or have on hand and by all means be creative, but make sure the ingredients go well together. Make one "add-in" ingredient the star of the show, meaning:  Add more of it than other add-ins. For instance: Today I am making a Greek-syle pasta salad, so I am using ingredients that are typical of Greek cuisine and 1-1 1/2 pounds of cooked jumbo shrimp are going to be the star of this pasta salad show. In turn, I am using Greek seasoning blend in my dressing.

3)  1 1/2-2  cups of very flavorful dressing and 1/2-1 cup of finely diced onion.  There is nothing worse than an under-dressed, bland, boring-tasting pasta salad except for an over-dressed dripping wet one.  Toss the dressing in, a little at a time, until the ingredients are well-coated and no dressing is puddling in the bottom of the bowl.  In my world, no pasta salad is complete without some diced onion of some sort.  I don't include it in the 1 1/2-2 1/2 pounds of "add-in" ingredients, because I consider onion a requirement for an awesome, full-flavored pasta salad.   

6a0120a8551282970b01630441ffdd970dFor the Lemony-Garlic Dressing:

1  cup red wine vinegar

1/4  cup lemon-infused extra-virgin olive oil

1/4  cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup sugar

1  tablespoon Dijon mustard

3-4  large garlic cloves, run through a garlic press

1/4  cup finely crumbled feta cheese 

1  tablespoon Greek seasoning blend

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

1/4  teaspoon black pepper

~ Step 1.  As pictured in the above photo, in a 2-cup measuring container with a tight-fitting lid, measure, prep and place all ingredients.  Shake vigorously.  You will have 1 1/2 cups of dressing. Set aside for 2-8 hours, at room temperature, to allow the flavors to marry.  If you want to make the dressing farther in advance, and/or use it for another purpose, store it in the refrigerator. Return it to room temperature prior to shaking vigorously and serving.   

Note and warning:  Because this dressing contains fresh garlic, use the dressing within 3 days, as after that, the garlic will sadly begin to grow bacteria that can make you and yours very ill.

PICT2714For the pasta:

1  tablespoon salt 

1  pound bite-sized pasta

~ Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5 quarts of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the salt.  Sprinkle in the pasta, adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook until pasta is al dente, about 9 minutes.  

~ Step 2.  Immediately drain pasta into a colander and run cold water through it until it is cooled to the touch.

PICT2714~ Step 3. Transfer to a baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Set aside to "dry", about 30-45 minutes.

PICT2715For the additional "add-in" ingredients & assembly:

1-1 1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp, cooked, tails-off

4  ounces finely-diced red onion, about 1 cup

1, 6-ounce can small black olives, well-drained, cut in half lengthwise, a generous 1 cup of sliced black olives

8  ounces feta cheese, crumbled, about 1 1/2 cups

12  ounces small Campari tomatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks, about 2 cups, at room temperature (Tip:  Because tomatoes contain a great deal of liquid, I prep them and set them aside while the pasta mixture is chilling in the refrigerator.  At serving time, I drain them of any excess juice and fold them in at the end.)

 a very light grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend, for topping

zest of 1 lemon, for garnish

PICT2714~ Step 1.  In a large mixing bowl, using a large rubber spatula, gently, but thoroughly, combine the pasta, shrimp and onion with 1/2 cup of the the dressing.  Set aside for about 10 minutes, to allow the pasta to absorb dressing.

PICT2718~ Step 2. Fold in the black olives, feta cheese and 1/2 cup more of the dressing.

PICT2715~ Step 3.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.  At serving time, drain any excess juice from the tomatoes and fold them into the mixture, along with last 1/2 cup of dressing.  

Portion and serve in shallow bowls or on flat plates garnished with fresh lemon zest and topped with a very light grinding of sea salt and peppercorn blend:

PICT2721

 Shrimp and Pasta Salad w/Lemon-Garlic Dressing:  Recipe yields 16 cups of pasta salad and 1 1/2 cups of dressing, or 12, 1 1/2 cup servings. 

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid; garlic press; cutting board; chef's knife; 8-quart stockpot; colander; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap; microplane grater

PICT4409Cook's Note:  For complete instructions on how to perfectly cook shrimp, read my recipe for ~ Once upon a time... A Tale about Shrimp Cocktail ~ in Categories 1, 11, 14, 16 or 21, or, watch my my Kitchen Encounters WHVL-TV segment #23 "Mel's Shrimp Cocktail and Cocktail Sauce" found in the left column of my homepage! 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012) 

Comments

Linda! Thank you so much for the kind words and comment! It was great to meet you and yours yesterday! I'm still smiling... ~ Mel.

This pasta salad ROCKS!!!! Mel served it at my cousin's baby shower. Now I will attempt to make it :-). I hope it turns out as good as Mel's.

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