Pasta Salad Against the Current: Pasta Salad with Smoked Salmon and Creamy Dill Dressing.

I confess, I actually make pasta salad fairly often.   I could have “cheated” and gone with a variety that I’ve made before, but, in the spirit of the challenge, I decided to go with something entirely new.  My journey towards an inventive pasta salad – if there is such an animal – began with a craving for smoked salmon, took a detour at the world’s largest tomato and wound up with something that my husband and I loved and my kids wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  (I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, my oldest daughter has been known to refer to salmon as “that nasty pink fish.”)  That said, this offering goes against the current in two ways:  1) the obvious:  it is made from salmon, which swims against the current to spawn; and 2) the annoying:  I was swimming against the current trying to get my kids to eat it.

I know, I know…we said we’d try to make this stuff kid friendly, but those little boogers can be so persnickety sometimes.  I guess you can’t win them all!!!  My final analysis is that this pasta salad, which is basically a riff on my favorite breakfast – a bagel with nova lox, cream cheese,  tomatoes, and capers – would be great for a grown up brunch.

Before I give you the recipe, I have to give props to the tomato that I used.  It was a gorgeous yellow tomato; the farmer told me that the variety was persimmon.  It weighed in at 2.5 pounds, which the farmer said was the largest he’s ever raised.  I snapped  a picture of the tomato posing with my eight year old.  Can a tomato pose, you ask…My friends, a tomato that big can do anything it wants!

Beauty and the Beast:

And another loverly shot of the mater:

Pasta Salad with Smoked Salmon and Creamy Dill Dressing

Ingredients:

-About half of a 16 oz. package of bow-tie pasta aka farfalle

-1/2 cup of mayo

-3 tbsp. of freshly squeezed lemon juice

-1 tbsp. dijon mustard

-2 tbsp. of fresh dill-weed, finely chopped

-2 tbsp. of capers

-a small pinch of kosher salt

-4 oz. of smoked salmon, cut into bite sized pieces

-1 cup of cucumber cut into a chunky dice

-1 medium tomato cut into a chunky dice

-1/2 cup of queso fresca, crumbled

Method:

Cook the pasta according to the package directions, making sure to leave it on the al dente side.  While the pasta is cooking, make the “dressing” by placing the next six ingredients in a smallish bowl and whisking with a fork until everything is well combined (the only lumps should be the capers and dill-you don’t want mayo lumps).  Once the pasta is done and drained, place it in a large serving bowl, toss it with about a tbsp. or so of extra virgin olive oil to keep it from sticking, and let it cool until it’s almost room temp.  (It’s a good idea to stir it occasionally while it cools to facilitate cooling and prevent sticking.)  When it reaches room temp, mix in the “dressing” and then stick it in your fridge covered until it’s fairly cool.  You should probably give it about an hour.  After the hour is up, add the rest of your ingredients, toss gently, and serve.

In case you were wondering:

What kind of tomato should I use?  Have some fun with your tomatoes.  Go to the farmer’s market and pick out the wildest looking tomato you can find.  There are so many awesome varieties widely available these days and they all have their own unique flavor.  This is what I was talking about when I said that vegetable choices have exploded since the eighties.  If my mother had seen the tomato that I used in this pasta salad sitting in a super market in 1984 she probably would have tried to beat it to death with her purse!  Mmmm…fresh tomato sauce.

Why is it important to leave my pasta al dente?  The pasta is going to be mixed with a creamy dressing and chilled.  If you overcook it, it is going to get both mushy and gooey.  Yuck.

What if I can’t find queso fresca?  Queso fresca is a mild, crumbly, white Mexican cheese.  The flavor is a little like cream cheese or farmer’s cheese, but the texture is quite different.  If you can’t find queso fresca, I would suggest substituting unflavored feta.

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