Well, here it is, the first recipe of 2017, Antipasto Vegan Pasta Salad. (It’s also gluten-free!) Truth be told, I didn’t post nearly as many recipes as I wanted to last year. Life was busier than I expected and a lot of things fell to the wayside. I’ve been craving being in my own little corner of the Internet again so I can share what I’m cooking with you. (By the way, if you’re reading this, thank you! Thanks for being here and following along with me. And Happy New Year!)
The beginning of February will mark my 11th year of blogging. I can’t even believe that! Eleven years have come and gone so quickly. I’ve been going through old photo folders on my hard drive. I may have shed a few tears when I saw the photos of recipes I made in all of the kitchens we’ve had in our different homes. All of those memories came rushing back full force. My oldest was not even two and I was pregnant with my son when I hit publish on my very first blog post. I loved seeing tiny, chubby hands in some of the photos. I’d forgotten how much my kids used to help me in those days. (Now they are more interested in eating what I make – ha!)
Eleven years feels like ages ago, and yet it feels like it was an instant at the same time. I feel like I’m a real grown-up now. Back then I was in my early twenties. Now I’m mid-thirties edging closer to 40. Sigh. As my grandmother used to say, “The days are long, but the years fly by.” Yes, they do.
The end of the year always makes me feel a bit nostalgic, and if I’m completely honest, a little melancholic. I love fresh starts, so January 1st is one of my favorite days. But bidding good-bye to another year, though I suppose it’s more symbolic than anything, can be hard. It’s a good time for reflection. Sometimes that brings up hard things along with the good things. As many wonderful things happened this year, it’s been a little tougher these last few months. But I feel good about some changes I’m wanting to make – realistic ones – and the new year is a good time for that also.
In any case, I’m looking forward to getting back to healthier eating. I really let things slide over the holidays…ahem. Usually I keep my sweet tooth in check, but I could not keep my hands off the chocolate. Ha! I know I’m definitely not the only one who looks forward to January as a way to jumpstart healthy habits. I don’t see anything ridiculous or pointless about making the same resolution over and over again because the truth is, I can always eat healthier. And it is important to me. ANYWAY. Not sure how I got off on that tangent!
This vegan pasta salad is something I plan on making more often this year. I usually have all of the ingredients in my cupboards and fridge, so it’s really easy to pull together and keep on hand for the whole week for lunches. It’s a great light dinner too, but lunch is where I’m often a little stumped as to what to make. Working from home can make it a little easier to be lazy about planning my meals ahead of time. And that’s the number one way to sabotage healthy eating is to NOT plan.
So what’s in this vegan pasta salad? What makes it so great? Well, it starts with pasta. My favorite is a brown rice-quinoa blend I buy at Trader Joe’s. It tastes great and holds up more than other gluten-free pastas. I also undercook it a little when making pasta salad just to be sure it doesn’t fall apart as gluten-free pasta is wont to do.
If you’re not gluten-free, then use whatever pasta you like best. That goes for the pasta shape too. I like the fusilli anyway, but the options are a little more limited with GF pastas. And to the pasta I add my favorite leafy green (after kale) arugula (rocket). (Okay, maybe I like arugula a little more than kale.) And to that a whole bunch of yummy ingredients that you would find at the olive bar at the grocery store. :) I LOVE marinated artichoke hearts. Even more, I love them combined with briny kalamata olives, pimento (or roasted red peppers), and sweet, chewy sun-dried tomatoes. Best combination ever as far as I’m concerned!
Oh, but then there’s the vinaigrette! I could drink that stuff. (I may have…) Use a good olive oil. Add a splash of white balsamic or wine wine vinegar, some minced shallots, dried Italian herbs, maple syrup, mustard, garlic powder, salt and pepper…and then the secret ingredient: fennel pollen. Fennel pollen is one of my fave spices/herbs. I keep a little tub of it in my spice cupboard and I only bring it out for something special. I think this pasta salad is pretty special. If you can’t find fennel pollen, no worries. The vinaigrette is still delish without it. You could also sub 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds for the same flavor, though the pollen is more delicate and flowery. And then you’ve got to add some spice – red pepper flakes, baby! Bring ’em on!
Wherever you are in the world, I hope this new year brings more kindness and goodness into your life – and lots of delicious things to eat! :)
- For salad:
- One 16 ounce package uncooked gluten-free pasta (or regular if you're not GF)
- 3-4 cups wild or organic arugula
- 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped (drained if packed in oil)
- ½ cup kalamata olives, sliced
- ½ cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
- ¼ cup pimento or diced roasted red pepper
- For dressing:
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons white balsamic or white wine vinegar
- 2 shallots, minced
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
- 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon fennel pollen (optional - see notes)
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder (or 1 garlic clove, minced)
- Big pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- Cook pasta according to package directions, but slightly undercook it. (It should be a step before al dente. Otherwise, it will be too fragile when tossing the salad. The pasta will continue to absorb any liquid, like the dressing, so it definitely won't be crunchy.) Drain well, rinse immediately with cold water, drain well, and place in a large serving bowl. Add the arugula, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, and pimento.
- Place all of the dressing ingredients into a jar with tight-fitting lid. Shake well. Pour over the salad and gently toss. Serve immediately.
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