Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Picnic Time

Ryan and Christina visited this weekend, and we had a picnic in the Azalea Garden behind the Art Museum on Sunday. The weather was absolutely perfect. We put our blanket under a big tree and enjoyed an afternoon together in this spot that really makes me feel so lucky to live where we do. I think Matt has some pics of the park somewhere, so I will try to post them.

Anyway, the food. We had some veggies and dip, some watermelon and these tiny, early strawberries that Christina picked up at Headhouse Square:

The fruit was almost a tease--it tasted reminiscent of what watermelon and strawberries should taste like, but really just got us excited for real summer fruit!

Our main course was a pasta salad, and we shared some great Garlic-Chive Cheddar, also from the Farmer's Market. We also had a pitcher of sangria, which was delicious, but which I don't recommend as most of your fluids on a hot day. Matt and I, at least, were pretty wiped!

I took inspiration for the pasta salad from this Ellie Krieger recipe, but changed it up a bit. I had a nice white Rigatoni leftover from vodka sauce we made the night before (coming soon), and at the market I picked up an inexpensive bunch of pea shoots, which I hadn't had before. They were great! A leaf that felt and cooked like baby spinach, but tasted like snap peas. So, with that ultimate spring ingredient, I adjusted the recipe a bit.

Light Spring Pasta Salad

8 ounces rigatoni or other short pasta (whole wheat would be okay, but these flavors are delicate, and the chewy white pasta worked great)
1/2 cup walnut pieces or halves
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
2-3 scallions, sliced, white parts onnly
1 1/2 cups chopped baby spinach leaves, or if you're lucky enough to find them, pea shoots and leaves!
1 tablespoon walnut oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper
to taste

Boil Pasta. Place spinach or pea shoots on bottom of strainer, and strain the cooked pasta over the leaves to wilt them. Run under cold water to stop it all cooking and cool it down.

Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Toss well, and toss again before serving.

Simple and delicious! I think this would also improve in the fridge over several hours, or be good for a couple days' lunches.

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