And so, we’ve finally fled the coop. We headed out last weekend to a house we’ve rented (with enough spare bedrooms for grandparents to come and
babysit catch up with their favorite grandson, because we are brilliant, friends, absolutely brilliant) and I’m dispatching from the beach this week. I’ve already had a dinner with friends that involved multiple formats of broiled cheese, several tastes of local wines, watched the sunset, had my first and second full night’s sleep in weeks, and now with the promise of Dunkin Donuts coffee and freckles in my near future, I have totally arrived.
I can’t wait to cook off the books this week, do that kind of thing summer junkies like me live for, heading to one of the innumerable local markets, grabbing all of the corn, eggplant and tomatoes our large and tiny arms can haul and eating simple meals. Still, I did attempt to do a little precooking and had I not stayed out until 11 p.m. with these bad influences the night before and packing in a zombified frenzy the next morning, I might have even remembered to bring this pasta salad with me. Whoops.
I’ve been thinking a lot about pasta salads this summer, but less along the lines of those gloppy mayo attacks from a supermarket deli and more along the lines of the best pasta dishes, served cold. There’s a market near my apartment that has the best New Jersey zucchini I’ve ever tasted (firm yet tender, mildly sweet), and with this salad, I was trying meld my favorite ways to cook it — with toasted almonds but also carpaccio-style.
What ended up in the bowl, with paper-thin slivers of parmesan, whole wheat spirals and a lemony dressing, was possibly more wholesome than I’d intended but completely satisfying nonetheless. I might add some feta or soft goat cheese instead of parmesan, some slivers of red onion when I make it again and I wouldn’t mind some white beans in there either but then again, I put white beans in everything. But mostly, I hope to not leave it at home next time; it deserves a better end than the one it is meeting in that lonely fridge in the city this week.
One year ago: Lighter, Airy Pound Cake and Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad
Two years ago: Key Lime Meltaways and Grilled Eggplant with Caponata Salsa
Three years ago: Summer Berry Pudding and Mixed Bean Salad
Zucchini and Almond Pasta Salad
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (2 to 3, depending on size), halved lenthwise and very thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 ounces parmesan or pecorino romano cheese, thinly sliced on a mandoline or with a peeler
1/2 cup slivered almonds, well-toasted and cooled (300 degree oven for 7 to 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, usually works)
1/2 pound pasta of your choice (I like the extra bite of whole wheat pasta in pasta salads), cooked, drained and cooled
5 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Further additions, if you wish: 1/2 cup crumbled feta or blue cheese (replacing parmesan), 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced (you can let this marinate in the dressing for a few minutes, to reduce its bite), 1/4 pound fresh arugula or 1/4 cup thinly slivered basil or 1 cup white beans, rinsed and drained
Toss zucchini slices with one teaspoon salt in a large colander set over a bowl or in sink. Let drain 20 minutes. If they taste too salty to you, rinse and drain them again.
Stir zucchini, parmesan, almonds and pasta together. Whisk together olive oil and lemon juice, seasoning generously with black pepper and salt to taste. Toss with salad and adjust seasonings to taste. Pack up salad and take it with you to the beach.