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Summer pasta salad

January 31, 2010

You’d think summer would bring plenty of berries, courgettes (zucchinis), fresh tomatoes, basil and basically all that is good in the world. Well, that story is partly true – a plentiful variety of vegetables is more affordable, but meanwhile, my garden is almost behaving like it’s still spring. All those seedlings are meekly popping out, hesitating as if another unexpected frost will come and pinch their lives away. Honestly, it has been a lukewarm summer so far, and while today looks like it will be gloriously sunny, the predicted high is 18C. No short shorts today.

Past all the griping though, there is a ray of summeryness to be had. Next time you have an hour to spare, pop down towards your closest market-style greengrocers – I picked up the most beautiful tomatoes and the freshest dwarf beans I’d ever laid my hand on, as well as some deep red peppers. You don’t need to get the exact same thing really, any veges will do, as long as they shrilly cry summer to you.

Summer pasta salad

serves 4 for lunch or 3 for a generous dinner

pasta for 4 (about 350g-400g)
1 large onion or 2 small, sliced along the lines
2 small/medium red peppers, halved to cut across the seed bit, and deseeded
about 100g dwarf beans, halved
4 cloves garlic, chopped finely
200g feta, cubed
a handful of fresh summer herbs (basil, oregano or flat parsley are all g)
1-2 fresh tomatoes, diced, juices retained, or equivalent in halved cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
cooking oil
about 1/2 tsp lemon pepper or squeeze of lemon juice
sundried tomato or basil pesto to taste or hummus to taste
a little drizzle of balsamic vinegar
extra virgin olive oil to finish

Put pasta on to cook and turn oven grill to 200C (400F), arranging an oven rack at the top point. Place halved peppers on a lightly greased oven tray or dish skin side up, and place under the grill. Remove once the skins have blackened somewhat (about 10-15 mins, 15 from a cold oven)

Oil a medium sized frypan on medium heat and fry onions in a generous amount of oil, stirring occasionally, until golden (while this is happening you can be prepping your other ingredients), about 15 minutes. Add half of the chopped garlic, cook another minute.

By this time your pasta will have cooked and the peppers done. Remove peppers from oven and let cool. Drain pasta, place in a large bowl. Add onions and garlic and stir through (get as much oil out as you can from the pan).

Oil the frypan again, heat on medium high. Chuck in the beans once oil is hot and a Tablespoon of water, then cover immediately. Let cook for a minute.

While the beans are cooking, peel the skins off your peppers, and slice thinly. Add to the pasta pot.

Uncover beans and mix the beans around a little, add the rest of the garlic and let cook for another minute uncovered. De-skin the rest of the red peppers if you didn’t finish already.

Taste a bean! If cooked but slightly raw, they are perfect, turn off the heat (they will keep cooking yet!). Add beans and garlic to pasta.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pasta bowl, mix it all up, and taste, adjusting for seasonings if needed. Serve with a slight drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and garnished with a few fresh herbs.

If keeping leftovers, refrigerate in an airtight container.

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