Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

There is no reason that those among us with a gluten intolerance can’t enjoy a good summery pasta salad.  This one was cool and civilized with fresh herbs and a nice new mozzarella.

First, cook your noodles (gluten-free or otherwise) according to the package instructions.  For the gluten-free variety, I find it’s actually better to cook them for a little bit less (like 15 minutes as opposed to 20) because then you avoid the mushy stage.  What they don’t tell you is the amount of sludgy starch that comes off the noodles when you drain them, nor how sticky the noodles are when they are ready. These are brown rice noodles, just FYI.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

So I added a drizzle of olive oil to the noodles to keep them separated while they cooled.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

Then I halved a few handfuls cherry tomatoes (I find the ones from Costco are actually the best and last the longest) and chucked those in.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

Then I chopped up some green onions, fresh chives, and fresh parsley and added that as well.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

I cubed up two large hunks of soft fresh mozzarella (I was looking for the little balls, but couldn’t find them) and added those in before tossing the salad. Make sure the noodles are cool before you do this or the cheese will melt.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

Pour a dollop of olive oil, another of rice vinegar, and another of lemon juice into a small sealable container and add some salt and pepper to liven it up a little bit.  You can add garlic, too, if you wish.  Give that a shake before pouring it over the salad and tossing all the noodles to coat.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

You can store it in an airtight container until you’re ready to eat it, but I would recommend eating it all the same day, as the noodles will become stiff and stick together after a while.

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

Pioneer Potato Salad

Pioneer Potato Salad

We had a Valentine’s cold-plate potluck at work on Tuesday and I was assigned to make a potato-egg salad.  And as the best one out there belongs to the Pioneer Woman, that’s the one I made, with some modifications of course.  Ever since the grocery store down the block closed I have found myself without certain key ingredients at unfortunate times.  Today, it was green onions.  So I improvised.

Wash and cube about 5lbs potatoes.  I used two different kinds, for the colour.  You can peel them if you want, but I like the texture and flavour of potato skins so I left them in.  Plop those in a large pot and boil them until they’re tender and mashable.

Pioneer Potato Salad

You’re also going to want to hard boil 4 eggs, through whatever method you use.  When they’re ready, peel them up.  Mine were pretty recalcitrant and refused to be peeled in a civilized manner.  The shells would not come off without a fight.

Pioneer Potato Salad

I punished them through the vigor of my chopping (even if your eggs are well-behaved, you’ll still want to chop them up).

Pioneer Potato Salad

Finely chop as well half an onion (or 5 green onions).

Pioneer Potato Salad

And a handful of sweet pickles.  You can use dills, if you prefer, but I think it’s better with the sweet ones.

Pioneer Potato Salad

In a bowl, mix together about 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise and 4 tablespoons mustard (I used a stone-ground dijon here, but you can use what you like).

Pioneer Potato Salad

In a wee bowl, arrange about 1/2 teaspoon paprika and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.  I also added 2 tablespoons dried chives, for colour, as I was missing the green onions.

Pioneer Potato Salad

I also had another wee dish of dried dill, for garnish.

Pioneer Potato Salad

So here is my mis en place.

Pioneer Potato Salad

Mash your boiled potatoes.  I really like the colour combination of the white and yellow ones here.

Pioneer Potato Salad

Stir in your mayo/mustard mix.

Pioneer Potato Salad

Add in your eggs, onions, pickles, paprika, salt, and optional chives.  Make sure to scrape the bottom so you get everything mixed in evenly.

Pioneer Potato Salad

Plop it in a serving dish.  The best part about this potato salad is it’s good hot, warm, and cold.

Pioneer Potato Salad

Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika and some dill, or whatever floats your boat.  It’s not elegant, but it’s good!

Pioneer Potato Salad

Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

The Pie and I took Easter easy this year, and it was just the two of us, so we kept Easter dinner simple.  We had a maple-glazed ham, creamy garlic mashed potatoes, crisp mashed rutabaga, and roasted asparagus with cheese and bread crumbs.

These mashed potatoes are super easy, and really not all that healthy.  But honestly, I don’t really think “healthy” and “mashed potato” should be used in the same sentence.  But that’s just me.

Gather yourself a selection of potatoes and peel those suckers.  Or don’t peel them.  I prefer my mashed potatoes with skins, but I was making this for the Pie and he prefers them without, so there you go.  Cut off all the spots and things.

Cube ’em up.

Boil the rawness out of them.  Drain them.

Mash them silly.  Add in lots of butter.  More than you think sane.

Some minced garlic.  Use your judgment here.  I don’t want to try to force my ideals of garlic amounts on you.  That’s just not my way.  I am not a proselytic garlic lover.

Some cream cheese.  Again with the judgment.  And some herbs of your choice.  Today we used dill.  Other days we use basil or oregano.

Eat.  Tell your arteries to pipe down and go back for seconds.

Dolmades

I’m not sure when exactly my mother and I started making these Greek/Lebanese lamb-stuffed grape leaves, but dolmades (dolma is the singular) have been a staple of ours for potlucks and gatherings for ages and ages.  Feel free to experiment with yours.

First you need a jar of pickled grape leaves.  I’m sure there are different kinds of leaves that are good for different things, but we usually pick the jar that has the largest leaves with the greenest colour.  You need to drain and rinse these suckers a couple of times to get the brine off.You also want to cook up some rice.

Two cups cooked rice should be sufficient.

You can always freeze whatever you don’t use in a freezer bag for chucking into soups later on.

Defrost about 2lbs ground lamb.

A large onion.  You want to practically mince that sucker.

Parsley.  Lots of it.  Chopped up, probably about a cup.

Ditto thyme, though less so, probably a few tablespoons.

Don’t forget what I told you about freezing herbs.

You probably also want to add some dill, but we didn’t have any.

A handful of pine nuts.

Mix all those ingredients up in a bowl.  Use your hands, don’t be afraid.

Now take a grape leaf and lay it flat on a plate, vein side up. 

Take a tablespoon or so of your lamb filling and plop it on the leaf, near where the stem should be.

Tuck in the sides of the leaf.

Roll the rest of it up like a cigar.

Here is your completed dolma.  Now do that another 40-50 times until you run out of lamb.

Now, take the small and broken grape leaves and line the bottom of a large pot with them.  Place your rolled dolmades on top, close together, double-stacked, until you run out.

Drizzle your completed dolmades with a bit of olive oil.  Layer more grape leaves on top.

Fill the pot to the edge of the dolmades with chicken broth and bring to a boil before lowering the heat and simmering for about 45 minutes.

Serve them hot, serve them cold.  I prefer them nice and warm, as I think they have more taste that way.  They’re really good with yogurt.