Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer in a Bowl: New Wave Salad

It rained Saturday for the first time in what seems like weeks.  The tomatoes, the beans, and the hydrangeas perked up at the strange sight of water falling from the sky. Unfortunately, the rain put a damper on our outdoor plans for the day, but we we've been feeling spendy (a term we use on the rare occasions when we are feeling like spending money), and we have a long list of things to put right in the house before January, if we're actually going to have another child (yes, I'm still in denial, despite the fact that I can no longer trace my six-pack abs), so we went couch-shopping instead.

Our house is mostly furnished with a hodge-podge of garage sale finds, hand-me-downs, and graduate student furniture.  What's currently in our living room, depending on the piece, was bought on the cheap, is between 12 and 15 years old, and has been moved across the country (or at least up and down the East Coast) several times.  Needless to say, it's fraying around the edges, losing its piping, and in general has seen better days.  And while wise people might not buy adult furniture when the prospect of baby poop and spit-up is on the horizon, I think we were feeling like it's time for change.

Testing out every couch in three showrooms within driving distance with a three year old in tow, though, is tiring work, and it was looking like we were going to end up coming home with little dinner prep time to spare.  Luckily, I'd started the components for this salad, so all we had to do was toss and eat.

I remember the first time I ever tasted this salad.  It was the first year we were living in this house, and we'd planted a real garden, filled with parsley and basil and green beans and tomatoes.  I can't even remember how I found this recipe any more, but the first bite I took was like a revelation; I felt like the garden had just leapt into my mouth.  Even though I'm not a huge pasta fan, every year since, I wait impatiently for the week when the beans and tomatoes and basil and parsley are out together.  And huzzah!  There's no lettuce in it!

I've been picking green beans from our own garden diligently all week in preparation, knowing that I had a big bunch of basil from the CSA waiting to be used, and a veritable parsley forest in our garden (there's a tabbouleh recipe coming soon).  Unfortunately, our tomatoes weren't ripening yet (save three little grape tomatoes we ate like candy this weekend, right off the vine), but I bought some from the Dvoor Farmer's Market that were just as good.   Don't skimp on the Parmesan; it's important to use the good stuff here.  We don't bother with the olives any more, but you could, if that sort of thing appeals to you.  If you're going to make it in advance, you can mix the beans and loose basil and parsley together, and mix the pasta and tomatoes together, but keep the rest of the dressing separate until you're ready to serve it because the beans will "cook" further in the acidity of the vinegar, and you're going for crisp, bright, and crunchy.

New Wave Salad (adapted from the New Basics cookbook)

1 1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
8 oz. pasta (your choice; we use whole wheat penne or shells)
1 1/2 c. red wine basil vinagrette (see below)
1 pound green beans, trimmed
6 ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 8-12 pieces
2 c. Calamata olives (optional)
2 T. fresh parsley
4 to 6 oz. Parmesan cheese

Red Wine Basil Vinaigrette

2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 c. fresh parsley, chopped
Combine garlic, mustard, vinegar and pepper in small bowl. Whisk well. Add oil in slow stream. Whisk constantly until vinaigrette has thickened slightly. Fold in 1/2 cup basil and 1/2 cup parsley parsley.

Arrange 1 1/2 cups basil leaves and roll them up lengthwise. Slice the stacks diagonally into slivers.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook at a rolling boil until just tender. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again, and place in mixing bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and toss well. Set aside.

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil, and add the beans. Simmer until just tender, approx. 5-8 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain again and set aside.

Place the pasta in a tall glass serving bowl. Cover with the tomatoes, and then the green beans. Cover the beans with the olives and remaining (1 1/2 cups) slivered basil. Sprinkle with the (2 T.) parsley, and pour the remaining 1 cup vinaigrette over the salad.

Scrape the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler or cheese server to make thin wide shavings. Place them on top of the salad. Toss well before serving.
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