Spring is well along, and the local farmers’ market is in full swing with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables available. Everyone in our local family is on one or another diet, not to mention their variety of food proscriptions: no onions, no mayonnaise, nothing spicy. So when it became my turn to cook our weekly family dinner, I decided it was a good time for salads. Let everyone push to the side whatever ingredient they wouldn’t or couldn’t eat. The main dish was a cross between a pasta and bean salad with the addition of vegetables and eggs from the farmers’ market as well as some canned items from the grocery store. There was a lot of prep time. I shelled fresh fava beans. I roasted corn. There were eggs to hard boil, chicken to cook and dice, and cans to open. But once that was all done, assembly was quick and easy so that I could sit in the family circle and participate in the discussion. The beauty of pasta and bean salads is that there really is no recipe, and you can add or subtract whatever you want. This version came so loaded that finicky eaters could have a field day picking out ingredients. Since I didn’t include onion or chiles and dressed the salad with vinaigrette, I addressed those objections at the outset. I didn’t see anyone picking at his or her plate,
Pasta-Bean Salad Primavera
- 1 pound fresh fava beans, shelled, blanched, husked. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- 2 ears fresh corn, dry roasted and kernels removed. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- 4 jumbo eggs, boiled and peeled. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble
- 1 large chicken breast, poached, cooled, and cut into ½ inch cubes. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- 2 bell peppers, seeds removed, diced. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- 2 ribs celery, diced. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- large cucumber, seeds removed and diced. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- ½ pound mushrooms, boiled for 15 minutes, cooled and halved. Set aside, refrigerated, until ready to assemble.
- 4 ounces pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry skillet. Set aside until ready to assemble
- 1 cup each of pasta shapes, cooked and drained. (I used orecchiette, penne and farfalle, but you can use your favorites)
- 1 cup olive oil vinaigrette, home-made or bottled
- 14 ounce can, cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 14 ounce can, black beans, drained and rinsed
- 14 ounce can, black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
- 14 ounce can, large, pitted black olives, drained and rinsed
- 14 ounce can, quartered artichoke hearts, drained
- 5 ounce can, sliced water chestnuts, drained
- 5 ounce can, sliced bamboo shoots, drained
- 8 ounces feta, cut into ½ inch cubes
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- ½ cup snow peas, ends removed and cut into ¾ inch slices
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Boil the pasta according to directions. If cooking times for the various pastas are greatly different, add the individual varieties at the appropriate time. Drain the cooked pasta and combine with half of the vinaigrette.
- In a very large bowl, and reserving the hard-boiled eggs, add all of the remaining ingredients to the pasta: fava beans, corn, chicken, peppers, celery, cucumber, mushrooms, pine nuts, cannellini beans, black beans, black-eyed peas, olives, artichoke hearts, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, grape tomatoes, snow peas, and feta.
- Stir in the remaining vinaigrette and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a large serving bowl and arrange sliced hard-boiled eggs on top.
- This recipe makes LOTS of pasta salad. It is easily enough to serve at least 12 people generously. It also makes great leftovers for the next day’s lunch
- Roasting corn in a dry skillet over high heat gets a nice char, but you can also achieve the same thing in the oven or over an open flame.
- I used four different colors of bell pepper for contrast and used only half of the diced peppers for this recipe, reserving the other half for another recipe.
- Boiling the mushrooms causes them to compact and absorb the vinaigrette better. If you like, you can boil them in water with a little vinegar and pickling spices to make them a little tastier.
- Dry roasting of pine nuts brings out their distinctive flavor. Just be careful not to scorch them.
- You can use whatever shape pasta you like, but ones with ridges or indentations – like macaroni, penne, or orecchiette – will soak up the dressing and the melded flavors. Just be sure to check on cooking times because if they are too different you could wind up with a mixture of firm and mushy pasta.
- You can substitute crumbled feta or any other cheese you favor. I like cubes of feta because they hold their shape and have a distinctive tart flavor.