Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Great Pasta Salad as a Side or a Meal

I have been making variations of this pasta salad for a long time now; probably close to 20 years. It uses pasta of a kind that will have enough little nooks and crannies that will pick up and hold the little lentils, bits of vegetables or cheese. I have most often used bowtie pasta, but medium shells will work, or even something like penne. 

I made it again a couple of days ago, and it always strikes me how much I love this combination.  The cheese used can be varied. Feta makes a wonderful combination if you don't care for blue cheese, which is what I used in the recipe this time. The herbs could be cilantro or basil or parsley. I think dill would also be tasty, depending on what cheese is used. I tossed in a jar of mushrooms this time, but in summer, fresh chopped heirloom tomatoes would be an exquisite addition. Try using different lentils if you have them. I am going to try this again with little green DePuy lentils one of these days.
Pasta with Lentils and Blue Cheese
Pasta with Lentils and Blue Cheese

I love this salad. Most times that I make it, I eat it as my meal. It has pasta, vegetables, lentils and cheese. More than enough for a meal. If you are a die-hard carnivore, it can certainly be a side dish. I made it the evening I grilled steaks (when we had a break in the cold weather and I could get out the grill), so we ate it as a side dish. Tonight I will have it for dinner on its own. I think the salad tastes best just off-warm. Personal preference. It can be eaten hot, cold, or anywhere in between.


Pasta and Lentils with Blue Cheese


Serves 6 - 8

1/2 cup brown lentils
1/2 pound pasta (shells, bowties, fusilli, etc) 
1 tablespoon salt for cooking pasta
1 cup pasta cooking water1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 carrot, grated or julienned
1 large or 2 small stalks celery, sliced thinly
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded, chopped (or use a small jar, drained)
1 jar (6 ounces dry weight) mushroom slices
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 pound (about 1/2 cup) blue cheese crumbles or Feta
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or basil, or parsley)

Set the lentils into a saucepan and add water to just cover. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until tender, about 30 to 35 minutes.

While lentils are cooking, bring a medium pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add the tablespoon of salt to the water and then the pasta. Cook the pasta for the time given on the packaging. Once done, scoop out 1 cup of the pasta water; set aside. Drain the pasta and set in a large bowl.

While those two things are cooking, heat a large skillet, then add the olive oil. Add in the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and cook until just tender. Pour the vegetables into the bowl with the pasta, along with the cooked lentils, the red bell pepper and mushrooms. Add in the cheese and herb of choice and toss well to combine. Taste for salt. This dish is wonderful with lots of freshly cracked black pepper.


 

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. I am also on a spiritual journey and hope you will join me at my new blog, An Eagle Flies.  

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