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~ Greek Pasta Salad w/Tapenade, Tuna and Tomato ~

IMG_1653Americans cherish the Summer.  The deck chairs come out, the cooler fills with ice, the shorts go on, everyone slides into their flip-flops, and then, spends as much time in the fresh air and sunshine as possible.  Some play sports while others garden, some like to swim while others prefer to sun bathe, but, each and every one loves to eat -- and a forkful of food simply tastes better in the great outdoors.  Here in the Northeast, the land of four seasons, Summer has finally arrived and I'm kicking it off with a refreshing, main-dish pasta salad that is dressed with tapenade.  Relatively speaking, its easy to make, mixes together quickly, and, travels well too.

Perfect for your next All-American Summer holiday or get-together.

IMG_1658A 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.  

"Tapenade" derives from the Provençal word for caper, "tapeno".

IMG_1521Hailing from the Mediterranean and dating back to Roman times, a traditional tapenade contains few ingredients:  black olives, caper berries, anchovies, garlic, olive oil, pepper, an occasional herb and/or a squirt of fresh lemon.  The texture of tapenade is personal, ranging from puréed or pounded to a paste, to finely-minced or slightly chunky. The tools of the trade used to achieve the desired texture range from the ancient mortar and pestle to the ordinary chef's knife and/or the high-tech food processor.  Tapenade should be allowed to rest a few hours prior to serving at room temperature, and, when stored in the refrigerator, the oil will preserve it for up to a month.  

IMG_161412  ounces bite-sized, fork-friendly pasta, cooked al dente as package directs (Note:  Large shells are perfect because they trap and hold all of the ingredients exceptionally well.)

1  cup my recipe for Briny, Garlicy & Herbaceous Greek-Olive Tapenade

1  12-ounce can solid white tuna packed in water, well-drained and broken into fork-friendly bits and pieces (Note:  Because the tapenade contains olive oil, this is a circumstance when tuna packed in water, which I prefer anyway, is preferable.)

3/4-1  cup diced red onion, 3-4 ounces 

3/4-1  ounces feta cheese crumbles, 4-6 ounces

1-1 1/2  cups cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters, 10-12 ounces

IMG_1601 IMG_1601 IMG_1601 IMG_1601~Step 1.  In a 4-quart stockpot bring 3 quarts of water to a boil over high heat.  Add 1 teaspoon sea salt.  Sprinkle in the pasta, adjust heat to a steady simmer and continue to cook until pasta is al dente, about 9-11 minutes.  Immediately drain pasta into a colander and run cold water through it until it is cooled to the touch. Transfer pasta to a baking pan lined with parchment paper.  Set aside to "dry", about 30-45 minutes, meaning: free from almost all of the water, not dried out.

IMG_1618 IMG_1618 IMG_1618 IMG_1627 IMG_1627 IMG_1627 IMG_1627 IMG_1627~Step 2.  Transfer cooked, drained, cold and dry pasta to a large bowl.  Add, and using a large rubber spatula, fold in the tapenade.  Allow to rest about 5-10 minutes to let the pasta soak in some of the briny olive flavor.  Fold in the tuna and onions, followed by the feta cheese.  If serving immediately, stir in the tomatoes too, but, if serving later, stir them in just prior to serving.

Note:  This pasta salad is full-flavored and perfectly-dressed (because my tapenade is homemade, I know it contains a nice amount of olive oil).  That said, in the event you are substituting store-bought tapenade, it may need a bit more dressing -- simply toss in 2-4 tablespoons olive oil, or 2-4 tablespoons store-bought Greek-style salad dressing.

Serve chilled w/beer or white wine for brunch, lunch or dinner: 

IMG_1644Greek Pasta Salad w/Tapenade, Tuna and Tomato:  Recipe yields 3 pounds deli-style pasta salad/2 quarts/8 cups/6-8 servings.

Special Equipment List:  4-quart stockpot; colander; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula

IMG_1588Cook's Note:  When I make tapenade, I make enough to last because I use it in several ways.  It's fantastic is place of tomatoes on a ~ Bacon, Lettuce, Tapenade & Chicken Club Sandwich ~ for lunch, and, in or on a French-style cheese omelette for breakfast too.

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

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melaie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)


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