It’s approaching the day. Monday. The day in which I finally discover what -20 degrees Fahrenheit feels like. With wind chill, I imagine the meteorologists will claim the air “feels like” it is even colder, which is unfathomable, because who can possibly discern between temperatures that cold? If any of your skin is exposed, it’s instantly numbed, so what “feeling” will I be doing exactly? Regardless, I should be binging on soup and hot chocolate and deeply warm dinners, but instead I’m still yearning for fresh, bright, vegetable-heavy dishes that almost let me believe Spring is in the reasonable future (It’s not. At all). It probably helps that I’m planning monthly vacations to decidedly warmer climates to ease the pain of continuing this horrible Chicago winter. I’ll almost definitely be diving back into comfort food by mid-week, once I regain feeling in my limbs and tongue, but for the weekend, with highs in the mid-twenties, I’ll turn the heat down a bit, put on a sweatshirt, and dig into some delightful pasta and vegetables. Beyond fresh and remarkably flavorful, this pasta salad is also quite quick to come together, and it serves perfectly as either an entree or side. So add it to your favorite chicken dish, Brian, or just pile it into a bowl. Either way, please don’t skimp on the sun-dried tomatoes.
Pasta Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and Sun-dried Tomatoes
Serves 4 for a meal, 6 for a side
6 oz. pasta
3 cups spinach
1 large cucumber, sliced thinly
Several stalks of green onions, sliced
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped roughly
3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp. oil from sun-dried tomatoes
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/8 tsp. cayenne peper
1/8 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, with a heavy pinch of salt added. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. I used a mixture of gemelli and bowtie pasta, because I didn’t have quite enough of either (and now I’m out of pasta entirely). These pasta cooked for the same amount of time, which I’d advise if you’re mixing. Once cooked, set aside to cool slightly.
In a lidded jar or a bowl, add lemon juice, oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes, olive oil, honey, and spices. Shake the jar or whisk vigorously until the liquids form a smooth vinaigrette. (If the liquids are too cold, and the honey won’t dissolve, heat the mixture for about 10 seconds in the microwave to facilitate the emulsion process). Pour the lemon vinaigrette over the pasta and mix to combine.
While the dressed pasta is cooling, chop the cucumber into thin quarter-rounds (I slice the entire cucumber down the longitudinal axis so it’s halved, then slice each half longitudinally again to make long cucumber quarters. Line up the quarters and slice thinly, approximately 1/4 inch slices). Slice green onions thinly, and chop the sun-dried tomatoes. Toss the pasta with the sliced vegetables until evenly mixed. Refrigerate the pasta and vegetables until more significantly cooled, about 30 minutes to an hour.
Once the pasta is cooler, toss with feta cheese and spinach, mixing thoroughly. It is now complete! Refrigerate for an additional 4-6 hours, or overnight ideally, to serve cold. The flavors marry and become more deliciously intense with time, so I find this pasta to be better and better each day. I more or less ate it for every meal at home for 3 days straight. So forget about the temperatures, Brian; eat your vegetables and pretend it’s warm outside.