It’s Pasta Salad Season, Baby!

Every other week local farmers drop a box of produce off at my house. It’s a program in Philadelphia that is somehow, with inflation and whatever economic fuckery is in the air, cheaper than buying produce at the grocery store. I initially got the box because I wanted to have a better understanding of when produce comes in and out of season. I am a child of supermarkets and fast food, and so my understanding of the growing cycles of food has all been formed in my 30s. This week, I opened the box, and was delighted with surprises. There were blueberries and cherry tomatoes and green beans and zucchini. But there were also sugar snap peas! I love sugar snap peas! And what I love most about them is chopping them up and putting them in a big pasta salad!

When I was a child, I waited all year for pasta salad season. The bowl the pasta salad went into was unfathomably big and shiny silver. It was so large that it took up most of a shelf in the fridge. Now that I am an adult I can make the big bowl of pasta salad for myself exactly the way that I like it. I do not have to put the red bell peppers in there if I’m not in the mood for them. I am not constrained to the tricolor rotini of my youth if I want to explore my options. On the verge of a big holiday weekend, and as the disgusting high-90s temperatures approach, we all deserve to make pasta salad as a treat!

Pasta salad is infinitely adjustable and tweak-able to meet your preferences. The key, in my opinion, is to reject the mayonnaise-based pasta salad. While I like mayonnaise, when you put it in pasta salad you relegate the salad to life as a side dish. Pasta salad can be a snack, a side and a whole meal if you believe in it enough. Pasta salad is also incredibly resilient. It is durable. If you make it on a Monday, congratulations, you’ve got meals for almost a full week. Now you’re not just saving money, but time in a hot kitchen in an otherwise horrible and hot summer day.

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Pasta salad will not betray you. It is filled with carbs and also vegetables! Last summer, I found my ideal pasta salad on a blog called Cafe Hailee. I do not know who Hailee is. I don’t even know if her other recipes are good. I did not investigate. What is important to me is her pasta salad: Everything Green Pasta Salad.

This pasta salad is so good. I am addicted to it! I love the tiny mozzarella balls! I love the snap peas! I love the good olives. I love the brightness of adding four extra lemons to whatever a recipe calls for! I love dumping tons of herbs in there as a treat. It’s delightful. And because I respect the variance of good pasta salads, I asked my co-workers for recommendations. Justin recommends this Ina Garten Tomato Feta pasta salad which looks delicious. Chris recommends just dumping feta, olives, tomatoes, oil and vinegar, and as many handfuls of fresh herbs as you can find into a big ol’ vat of pasta. Chris and I also recommend this Deb Perelmen recipe with roasted tomatoes. It’s an extra step, but it’s worth it.

Yesterday, as stifling heat settled in the air outside, I took my produce from the box out of the fridge and chopped it up. I chopped the cucumber. I chopped the sugar snap peas. I chopped up a handful of herbs and a bunch of scallions and used every lemon I had left. The result was a tangy, bright, treat. The first bite was so cold and delicious.

Look at my beautiful pasta salad!

pasta salad in a bowl!
Kelsey McKinney/Defector

Today, my pasta salad will be even better. The longer it sits in the fridge, the more acidic and lovely it will become. I cannot wait to get a bowl this afternoon. It’s Pasta Salad season, baby! Time to scoop it out of the fridge by the bowlful to satisfy your summer hunger. Time to live a little!

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