Baby tomatoes

Baby tomatoes

Monday, July 6, 2015

Salad For Lunch

Every Wednesday is Summer Lunch Day in our office. What a great idea- each week a couple different people sign up to bring a lunch dish to share with the team. Doesn't have to be fancy. Most weeks we have a couple salads or a salad and a dessert of some kind. It's a great way to socialize with the team, enjoy some home cooking, and try new dishes. 

Personally I really enjoy potluck meals like that. So many of the dishes remind me of foods my mom and grandmother used to make. Casseroles, for example, might be a Midwestern thing but they make a potluck meal really special. Our office has a cubicle we all call The Food Cube. It's set up for potluck meals- power strips for crockpots, containers of plastic forks and spoons, stacks of paper plates and bowls. Packets of condiments, all ready to go at a moment's notice. We even have a team crockpot that stays in The Food Cube in case someone brings food that needs to be heated- no need to lug your own heavy crockpot around.

Pasta salads are always a hit at our lunches. Fresh veggies, fun pasta shapes, sometimes a little shredded or cubed cheese make a filling dish that just about every loves. When it was my turn to bring a dish pasta salad was a natural choice, especially in this house where pasts reigns supreme. With this salad I decided to go with a Greek twist, using the veggies commonly used in a Greek salad, like tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, olives and herbs. Tossed with pasta in a vinaigrette dressing, with Mediterranean herbs and cheese it was a refreshing change from the mayo type dressing.

I prefer orzo in this dish but this time I as unable to get it- our little grocery store didn't have any! I was stuck using pasta rings. Also, feta or goat cheese are lovely crumbled into the salad if you like.

Greek Style Pasta Salad

1 pound small pasta such as orzo
1 small cucumber
2-3 Roma tomatoes
6 scallions
1 cup ripe olives
1 small bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
couple handfuls fresh baby spinach

Heat the olive oil til warm but not sizzling. Lightly crush the garlic cloves and place in the oil. Set aside and allow to steep at least an hour. 

Cook the pasta according to package directions.  Cook to al dente- do not overcook! Drain and rinse in cold water to stop the cooking process. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Chop the cucumber into small pieces and add to the bowl with the pasta. Cut up the tomatoes and chop into similar sized pieces, removing the seeds if you like. Add to the bowl. Chop the bell pepper and scallions (including the green tops) and into the bowl they go. Slice the olives and add those too. Add the herbs, salt and pepper.

Fish out and discard the garlic cloves. Combine the olive oil and vinegar in a jar. Cap the jar and shake to combine. Pour over the pasta and vegetables, toss well. Add the Parmesan and spinach, squeeze a little bit of lemon juice over and toss again. Cover and chill until serving time.

This salad makes a great lunch entree and as always, you can add grilled chopped chicken, shrimp or any other meat or seafood you like. You might want to keep a little extra vinegar and oil handy in case you need a little extra for serving. I like to be able to taste the punch of the vinegar in my Greek salads. 

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