Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shrimp, Feta , Tomato & Casareccia salad - easy pasta salad for a hot summer night

Pasta salads are a pretty common thing for summer, don't you think? There are tons of recipes out there, yet American-style pasta salad seems to have a few things in common: it has got to have the pasta(!), it needs some sort of a vinaigrette (could even be creamy), and it gets tossed together with vegetables and other assorted stuff (like cheese, salami, or shrimp, for example). It's very versatile (I think we can pretty much throw anything in there), it can be done ahead of time, and it's served cold. I think all of these characteristics are what makes a pasta salad perfect for those hot summer days like, well, today. (The forecasters got it right today...they said it'd be 35°C...and that's just what it is....95°F...)

Making a pasta salad is nothing complicated for sure, and isn't it nice to do something simple? That's what a hot summer day with no air conditioning can do to a person! Simple yes, but that doesn't mean the taste is simple. Au can be explosive and downright tickle-you-pink delicious. But that's only if you can find the freshest of ingredients.

Here's my recipe, in case you're tempted to try a new variation. The vinaigrette is actually based on a spring roll dipping sauce....with a bit of added olive oil to make it more vinaigrette-y. What this means is that it's light & fragrant, it's got a little twang (from the garlic & fish sauce) and it can easily coat the most sauce-hungry pastas such the type called casareccia, without leaving a heavy oily feel. I think that's the part I like most about this particular salad.

I'm not into promoting things on this blog, but I have to admit that De Cecco brand pasta is my favorite pasta. This particular noodle has lots of nooks & crannies where the sauce gets all nicely tucked away in...but, of course, any shape pasta can work.

Served with a green salad, this is a very satisfying dinner. Not too filling, but plenty enough to make a meal. The quantity in the recipe below will make 5-8 servings (depending on if it's a main dish or side dish.) Don't worry, however, if you don't have 5-8 mouths to feed all at once. You can always make a smaller quantity, of course. However, the leftovers are worthy of looking forward holds well enough for the next day's meal. (And isn't it nice to have a left-over that you actually look forward to eating?)

Pasta Salad Ingredients

250 g dry pasta, casareccia or other type
75 g Greek black olives, oil-cured
100 g feta cheese
500g whole cooked shrimp (weight with the heads), or 225g when peeled
110g or 12 petals of tomate confite* (optional, but adds that explosion of flavor)
1 ear of corn, cooked & shucked
a bunch of cherry tomatoes*
1 bunch fresh basil or cilantro

* Note: tomate confite is a tomato that has been peeled, seeded, quartered and then slow roasted in the oven. I used tomate confite which is hard to see in the picture since they're all diced up, but I also used the inside core (the seeded part that I removed from the tomatoe before roasting it). It was really good....but if I didn't already have roasted tomatoes in my fridge, I could've just used cherry tomatoes.


Juice of 1 lime
1-2 TBLS sugar (to taste)
2 TBLS fermented fish sauce (nam pla)
1 TBLS white vinegar (or unseasoned rice vinegar if you have it)
2 small cloves of garlic, pressed
1 tsp dried pepper flakes (more or less to taste) - or fresh jalapeno minced to taste
olive oil, to taste (~1/4 - 1/2 cup)

  1. Cook pasta, rinse in cold water, drain & reserve in big mixing bow. Get all other salad ingredients ready: pit the olives & cut into slivers, cook & remove kernels of corn from the ear, cut the cherry tomatoes in half or quarters, peel & de-vein the cooked shrimp, and dice the feta cheese.
  2. Prepare the vinaigrette: Cut the shallot into a very fine dice & put into small mixing bowl. Add the lime juice, sugar, fish sauce, white vinegar, garlic & pepper flakes. Stir. Adjust flavoring to taste. OK to do ahead of time (it will soften the shallots this way). Just before serving, whisk in the olive oil, a little at a time until it's a light consistency. Keep adding more if you like a heavier oil taste. Season with salt & white pepper to taste.
  3. Pour some of the vinaigrette over the pasta & vegetables. Add the finely chopped basil or cilantro, and gently mix together. Add more vinaigrette until very well coated. Can serve immediately or refrigerate before serving.


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