Monday, August 2, 2010

Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad


Not your average pasta salad. That was what I was craving when I found this on Smitten Kitchen's site. The dressing is made from roasted red peppers. It's full of flavor; it's light, not heavy and it's not bottled Italian dressing. One could, I suppose, use jarred peppers. They're good. I use them for lots of dishes. But for this, I wanted soft, meltingly tender, sweet and charred peppers. Roasting them in the oven is actually less involved than charring them over a gas flame (I've done that too. It takes a long time.).          

I might try grilling them, the next time I make this, to get an even smokier flavor from them. But they get so soft in the oven after roasting, it really is a perfect application for peppers. The skins fall right of the flesh, you can save the juices to put in the processor when you're ready to blend, and then wrap the skin and seeds and core in the foil and toss it. No fuss, no mess. That's my kind of cooking. I don't mind involved recipes, if I have the time, but I love a short cut as much as the next girl. (Said the girl who just roasted her own peppers.)


The other reason I wanted to make this salad were the colors. We love peas in this house and I will try any recipe that includes them. I would have loved to use fresh peas, but I never see them in the grocery store. So frozen it is, and fresh snow peas, which we also love. They are so crisp and sweet and add a freshness to anything you put them in. The different contrast of soft peas, chewy pasta and crisp snow peas is a genius combination, especially with the sweetness of the pepper vinaigrette. It's colorful, healthy, light and delicious. It's exactly what I want to eat in the summertime.



Summer Pea and Roasted Red Pepper Pasta Salad 
as written by Deb, of Smitten Kitchen

This salad would also be fantastic finished with some slivered herbs, like basil, bits of soft goat cheese or crumbled feta or grated Parmesan, but really, it doesn’t need any of that to taste great. Promise.

1 pound of small pasta (I used shells because I imagined the peas would nest in there and gah, such cuteness)
1/4 pound snow pea pods, ends trimmed
1/2 pound fresh summer peas, which yielded about 1 cup once shelled
3/4 to 1 cup Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette (recipe below)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prepare a small ice water bath. Boil the snow pea pods for about two minutes, or until just barely cooked but still crisp. Scoop them out with a large slotted spoon and drop them in the ice water bath. Cook the peas for about 10 minutes (once again, this will be al dente, you can cook them longer if you prefer them softer), scoop them out with a large slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water bath as well. Drain both peas. Cut the snow peas into thin slivers.
Add the pasta into the boiling water and cook it according to package instructions. Drain and let cool, then toss in a large bowl with peas and Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette, seasoning to taste.

Roasted Red Pepper Vinaigrette

Please don’t limit your use of this to just pasta salad, though, I can say withabsolutely no bias that it is awesome in it, but that’s no reason not to toss this with white beans for a quick bean salad or what your choice mix of greens are.
I like to slow-roast bell peppers in the oven at 350 for one hour, giving them a quarter turn with tongs every fifteen minutes so they get evenly blistered — then letting them cool and peeling them. I know it’s faster to blacken them over a gas flame, but the pepper never gets as supple and sweet as I want it to, but hey, that’s just personal preference. You know, in case you wanted to know.
Makes about one cup of dressing

1 red bell pepper, roasted, skinned and seeded or the equivalent from a jar, drained
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (and up to 2 tablespoons more if you, like us, like that extra bite in your dressing)
1 tablespoon chopped shallot (about 1 small)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Several grinds of black pepper

Puree the red bell pepper in a food processor or blender as much as possible, then add the remaining ingredients and running the machine until the dressing is silky smooth. Adjust the vinegar level and seasonings to taste.

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