The Sometimes Vegetarian

July 11, 2011

Are you a Meatless Mondays enthusiast but not ready to take the plunge for the rest of the week? Maximize your meat-free meals with personal chef (and Whole Foods Market Cooking recipe tester) Natalie Barbarese's new column, The Sometimes Vegetarian, where she'll share a mouthwatering, vegetarian recipe every other Monday.

This week: a summer scorcher sparks a (mostly) heat-free, Greek-Inspired Pasta Salad.

greek-inspired pasta salad
Photo by Natalie Barbarese

- Natalie

Nobody wants to be in a hot kitchen with several burners going and the oven blazing when it’s this hot outside. My recipe for a Greek-Inspired Pasta Salad is bursting with fresh vegetables, feta cheese and Kalamata olives -- all so good on their own, adding heat seems not only punishing, but also pointless. For this dish, you’ll only have to use one burner to boil your pasta -- promise! Just toss everything in a big bowl, add the hot pasta and enjoy.

When I set out to shop for this no-cook pasta recipe, I let my curiosity guide me through the aisles. I knew I wanted to include feta cheese and Kalamata olives as a nod to the Greek theme, and I liked the idea of cherry tomatoes since they’re so compact and easy to work with. But, on my way out I headed back to the produce section (I forgot the arugula) and lo and behold: a crate of heirloom tomatoes stood before me in all their gnarly, colorful glory. I picked up yellow and red ones for a pop of color and set their diminutive cousins aside for another time.

I use a technique in this recipe to mash the raw garlic into a paste, which tempers its strong bite and breaks down the texture so you don’t bite down on any large pieces. Start by roughly chopping the garlic cloves, then sprinkle the pile with salt. Using the flat side of your knife blade, smush the garlic and salt together (the salt acts as an abrasive), chopping it every so often to further break down the pieces, until you have a fairly smooth paste. Note: I don’t add any extra salt after this step since I salted the pasta water, and the feta and olives are briny enough themselves.

natalie barbarese
Photo by Natalie Barbarese

Full of different colors and textures, this Greek-Inspired Pasta Salad can be served as a filling side dish, thanks to whole wheat pasta, tangy feta cheese and handfuls of peppery arugula. Or, add cooked chickpeas or sliced avocado to make it the main event.

Greek-Inspired Pasta Salad

Serves 6

1 pound whole wheat rotini, or other short pasta
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound assorted heirloom tomatoes, lightly seeded and chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
3 cups packed baby arugula
3-4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1 lemon, zest and 1 tablespoon juice reserved
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions. Drain and toss with 1 tsp olive oil.
  2. Meanwhile, roughly chop garlic and arrange in a small pile. Sprinkle the kosher salt on the garlic and lay the blade of your knife down on the garlic and press to form a paste. Continue smushing and chopping the garlic until you get a loose paste. Add garlic paste to a large bowl along with the tomatoes, olives, arugula, feta and lemon zest.
  3. Add pasta to the bowl and toss everything together. Add reserved lemon juice, remaining 1 tsp of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Natalie is the chef/owner of Broccoli Rose, a personal chef business serving healthy meals to locations within 60 miles of Montclair, New Jersey.

natalie barbarese

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