Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Mediterranean Pasta Salad

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Prepared Mediterranean Pasta Salad served in a clear bowl on a wooden tray.

Go ahead and skip the mayo with this Mediterranean Pasta Salad that is bright and briny with a wonderful array of ingredients. The zesty dressing made with Dijon and fresh herbs is a burst of flavour that takes this salad to the next level. Olives and pancetta add a nice texture and brininess to the pasta, while the spinach, cherry tomatoes and red onion keep it light and fresh. Mediterranean Pasta Salad is great for picnics, potlucks, backyard BBQ parties and your July long weekend. This salad holds up wonderfully the day it is made so there’s no fear of a soggy salad. The pasta and pancetta can be cooked up to two days ahead so tossing this salad together at the last minute is a cinch. Enjoy!

Ingredients for Mediterranean Pasta Salad arranged on a wodden tray.

This recipe was one of the first posted to my blog back in 2016 and I forgot how delicious it is. I felt it deserved a little revival just in time to enjoy for summer.

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Mediterranean Pasta Salad

Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 7 ounces gemelli or fusilli pasta
  • 4 ounces pancetta
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh basil see note
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano see note
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley see note
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 cups lightly packed baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup sliced black olives
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced and roughly chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Instructions

  • Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water until pasta is cool. Drain well and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, in a small skillet cook pancetta over medium heat until crispy and fat has been rendered, about 5-7 minutes. Drain well on a paper towel-lined plate.
  • Whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, basil, oregano, Dijon mustard, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt and pepper.
  • Toss together pasta, pancetta, spinach, cherry tomatoes, black olives, red onion, parmesan cheese and dressing until combined. Adjust seasoning and serve.

Notes

-fresh herbs are lovely in this recipe, however, if you need to use dry herbs use 1/3 of the amount stated for fresh.
-this salad is best served the day it is made but leftovers will keep for 2 days covered in the refrigerator.

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Japanese Cabbage Salad

Japanese Cabbage Salad

Japanese Cabbage Salad

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Japanese Cabbage Salad served in a square wooden bowl and garnished with sliced green onions.
Shredded cabbage, green onions, ramen noodles and almonds on a wooden cutting board being prepaired for Japanese Cabbage Salad.

Spring has sprung, and it’s time to start thinking about grilling, fresh berries and salads. Japanese Cabbage Salad is fresh, light and a little bit crunchy for the perfect picnic, side or lunch salad. The change of season brings about fresh and light recipe ideas for blogging but also a welcome change for everyday living. It’s the opportunity to jog outdoors, enjoy long walks and drive to and from work in daylight. These are important things in my world. What’s got you excited for spring?

Japanese Cabbage Salad served in a square wooden bowl and garnished with sliced green onions.

What I enjoy most about this salad is the almonds, they give a great crunchy texture to every bite. Using the chicken seasoning package from the noodles in the dressing is also genius. It provides a wonderful savoury and salty addition to the mound of cabbage. Japanese Cabbage Salad is great for picnics or potlucks because it holds up very well and there is no mayonnaise to cause concern if left to sit for a while. Have it as a meal by adding grilled or rotisserie chicken, it’s a great lunch.

The recipe suggests letting the salad rest for 30-60 minutes to meld the flavours, but truthfully, I enjoy it just as much the next day after the cabbage has absorbed more of the dressing. It’s rather embarrassing how much of this salad I can eat in one sitting, stopping only because my gut aches from eating so much raw cabbage. I’m not sure that salads are usually what people can’t stop eating but this one hits all the right notes for me. Enjoy

Japanese Cabbage Salad served in a square wooden bowl and garnished with sliced green onions.
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Japanese Cabbage Salad

Prep Time 20 minutes
Resting Time 30 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 6 cups

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pkg chicken ramen noodle seasoning
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • to taste pepper
  • 5 cups finely shredded cabbage, lightly packed about 1 pound
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 3 each green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 pkg instant chicken ramen noodles

Instructions

  • Whisk together the first six ingredients and set aside.
  • In a large bowl toss together shredded cabbage, almonds and green onion. Add dressing and toss to coat evenly. Break apart ramen noodles into small pieces with your hands and toss with salad. Cover salad and allow to rest in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes to meld flavours and soften the noodles slightly. The salad can be made up to 2 hours in advance, tossing lightly just before serving.

Notes

-Slivered almonds are preferred as they offer the best crunch and size.  To toast the almonds preheat the oven to 350°F.  Arrange almonds in a single layer in a pie plate or other shallow baking tray.  Toast for 8-10 minutes until just starting to turn golden. 
-Easily make this salad into lunch by topping with cooked chicken.

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Tarragon Chicken Salad

Tarragon Chicken Salad

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Tarragon Chicken Salad is piled high and topped with lettuce on a golden bun. The bun sits on a stack of plates garnished with cucumber slices.

Here’s to having plenty of summer days that are too hot to want to cook.  Tarragon Chicken Salad is perfect for just such days.  No need to cook when tender chicken pairs up with mustard and creamy mayo for a wonderful salad that’s amazing on a crusty roll, croissant, lettuce wrap or cracker.

 

Cooked diced chicken rests on a wooden cutting board and is surrounded by dried tarragon and whole grain mustard in preparation for Tarragon Chicken Salad.

Start with cooked chicken, preferably leftovers or even a pre-cooked roaster chicken for convenience.  While I’m all for making as much homemade as possible, it’s hard to deny the lure of a plump, juicy roast chicken that’s ready when you need it.  Whatever chicken you use, chop it chunky and avoid over mixing it after adding the other ingredients. Overmixing tends to break down the fibres of the chicken a little too much for my liking, so be gentle.

Along with the crisp chopped celery, I also like to add a few of the celery leaves for a bit of freshness.  I have left out adding any onions to this chicken salad, however, thinly sliced scallions would be a nice additional touch if desired.

 

Ingredients for Tarragon Chicken Salad are measured into a glass bowl and ready to be stirred. A basket of buns sits in the background.

The tarragon is a wonderful flavour to go with chicken and mustard. You’ll find that the longer it sits in the salad the stronger the flavour will be.  It does take a little time for it to meld with everything.  By all means use fresh tarragon if you can, using about 3 times the amount of the dry, so in this case, I’d use a tablespoon of fresh.  The fresh won’t require the same amount of melding time, simply mix and enjoy!!

 

 

Tarragon Chicken Salad is piled high and topped with lettuce on a golden bun. The bun sits on a stack of plates garnished with cucumber slices.
Tarragon Chicken Salad
Print Recipe
    Servings Prep Time
    2 1/3 cups 15-20 minutes
    Passive Time
    15 -120 minutes
    Servings Prep Time
    2 1/3 cups 15-20 minutes
    Passive Time
    15 -120 minutes
    Tarragon Chicken Salad is piled high and topped with lettuce on a golden bun. The bun sits on a stack of plates garnished with cucumber slices.
    Tarragon Chicken Salad
    Print Recipe
      Servings Prep Time
      2 1/3 cups 15-20 minutes
      Passive Time
      15 -120 minutes
      Servings Prep Time
      2 1/3 cups 15-20 minutes
      Passive Time
      15 -120 minutes
      Ingredients
      Servings: cups
      Instructions
      1. Add all ingredients to a medium size bowl starting with 1/3 cup of mayonnaise. Stir gently until combined adjusting creaminess with additional mayonnaise and seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
      2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes and up to several hours to allow flavours to meld.
      Recipe Notes

      -The tarragon flavour will become more pronounced the longer the chicken salad sits.

      -A precooked roaster chicken that has been chilled works wonderfully.

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      Affiliate Disclosure

      I may receive compensation for purchases made through this site, at no cost to the purchaser. Compelled to Cook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
      Catalina Dressing

      Catalina Dressing

      It will soon be summer with salads of crisp greens and bitter radicchio.  What better way to dress your salad than with homemade Catalina Dressing.  I’d say it’s a bit of a forgotten dressing, one that’s been in the shadows of more trendy dressings made with avocado and tofu.  Kinda like it doesn’t get to hang out with the cool dressings, but there’s no reason for the snub.  Catalina Dressing is sweet and zingy, and just what your greens are screaming for.

      It’s not new and maybe even a bit old fashion, but I thinks it’s more that everyone has forgotten how good it really is and all the other great uses it has.  Dressing is dressing you might think, but how about mixing it with mayonnaise for a great burger and sandwich spread. 

      Next, you’ll want to add a generous splash of sriracha to that spread and serve as a dip for sweet potato fries or potato wedges.  

      Oh, and did I mention Catalina Dressing makes fantastic chicken wings, yes you read that right, CHICKEN WINGS.  Coming soon to the blog, I promise!  So never, never underestimate this humble salad dressing, it’s anything but boring. 

      Recipe for Catalina Dressing adapted slightly from: Epicurious

       

      Catalina Dressing
      Print Recipe
        Servings Prep Time
        1 cup 10 minutes
        Servings Prep Time
        1 cup 10 minutes
        Catalina Dressing
        Print Recipe
          Servings Prep Time
          1 cup 10 minutes
          Servings Prep Time
          1 cup 10 minutes
          Ingredients
          Servings: cup
          Instructions
          1. Add all ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Allow to rest at room temperature for at least 1 hour to meld flavours. Move to fridge if not using shortly after. Will keep for 1 week refrigerated.
          Recipe Notes

          Yields:  1 generous cup

          Beet Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing

          Beet Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing

          Beet Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing is a lovely use of your fresh beet bounty this summer. For the fresh garden beets that are the star in this recipe, I give thanks to my mother in-law, who at 76 still maintains a huge yard and garden. It was from her wonderful garden that I was able to hand pluck my beets, wishing with each pull that I had endless time and energy to use more.  Throughout the season my husband and I are lucky to enjoy fresh beans, carrots and potatoes even though we only use a very small fraction of what she grows. Her other lucky recipients include neighbours, bridge club and church friends. Plus, family get together meals at her house are laced with  a dose of fresh buttery peas, pickled beets and tomato wedges.  I am a very lucky gal and grateful to benefit from all her hard work.

           

          Gardening is a great hobby to have, but a tremendous amount of work as it is with her large garden. So while I enjoy this Beet Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing I recognize her efforts and the importance of maintaining a residential garden no matter how big or small. I believe the skills and knowledge to grow a successful garden are not passed down by generation as they once were and that tradition is slowly slipping away. I suppose we have Google and You Tube now to help us out, but something tells me it’s not the same as having your parent or grandparent help you position the pitch fork “just right” underneath that hill of potatoes, show you why you need wire mesh for the peas or sending you out to cover up the tomatoes. So hats off to all those who still maintain their own fruit and vegetable gardens and take the time to share their knowledge and their bounty!

          Recipe source for Beet Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing:  Compelled To Cook

          Beet Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing
          Print Recipe
            Servings Prep Time
            2 people 20 minutes
            Cook Time
            15 minutes
            Servings Prep Time
            2 people 20 minutes
            Cook Time
            15 minutes
            Beet Salad with Creamy Feta Dressing
            Print Recipe
              Servings Prep Time
              2 people 20 minutes
              Cook Time
              15 minutes
              Servings Prep Time
              2 people 20 minutes
              Cook Time
              15 minutes
              Ingredients
              Salad
              Dressing
              Servings: people
              Instructions
              Salad
              1. Cook beets in lightly salted simmering water until fork tender, approximately 15-18 minutes depending on size. Prepare dressing while beets are cooking. Drain and cool with cold running water. Once cool to the touch, trim off top and bottom and peel off skin, which should remove easily. Place beets onto a paper towel lined plate to absorb any run off beet juice. Cut beets into large bite size chunks.
              2. Arrange approximately 2 cups of mixed greens onto plate. Cut apple half in half and remove core. Slice into 1/4" slices and spread half of the apple over mixed greens. Top with half the beets and sprinkle with 2 tbsp of pistachios. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with additional fresh dill fronds. Season with freshly cracked pepper and sea salt if desired. Serve immediately.
              Dressing
              1. Using a blender or mini food processor, blend together all ingredients except feta until combined and smooth. Add feta and pulse a few times to combine yet retain some feta texture. Keep chilled until ready to use.
              Recipe Notes

              -I used the elongated cylindra beets which cook quickly and peel easily.  Globe style beets can be used, just adjust cooking time according to size of beet.

              -This recipe makes about 2/3 cup of dressing which may be more than you need, however it is difficult to blend smaller amounts.  Use any extra on sweet potato fries or lamb burgers.

              -This recipe makes 4 starter size salads if desired.