Super sneaky salads: My light spring pasta and bread salad.
I like hearty meals. Soups that warm your soul and body on a cold winter’s day. I like to drown braised leeks in thick butter sauces while the snow falls outside my window. And I love myself a warm chocolate cake any day. But with winter fading away and the first sunlight warming my face, I can’t help but crave for something with a bit more freshness. To me spring is the season of light salads. The tomatoes on the market booths and on the shelves of supermarkets have not bathed enough in the sunlight yet, they lack the sweetness and body required for a good summer salad, but with the first fresh radishes popping up and the trusty old iceberg salad (which is rather good all year through) my light pasta and bread spring salad will be just the right thing to welcome the season.
In last week’s post I already expressed my love for the tiny little pearls of pasta, called acini di pepe. I first discovered them in my local Moroccan deli (don’t ask me how they ended up there, I wouldn’t know), where they were advertised as plombi pasta. However, the internet said that this wasn’t really a thing and offered me a video of an animated bald guy fixing his leaking tap instead. After a few minutes of searching the world-wide web, I finally found what I was looking for: Acini di Pepe are a form of pasta. Italian for “peppercorns”, they look like tiny beads. Acini di pepe work well in soups or cold salads. (Have a look at Wikipedia, for the whole pasta-knowledge experience).
I have to come clean here, I hate pasta salads. Not all of them obviously, but almost all of them. Well, maybe not almost all of them, but at least the ones made in Germany. There is just something about the combination of dull and overly heavy mayonnaise, cold canned peas, coarse chunks of processed baloney and overcooked and undersalted macaroni, that I can’t stand. So for my first take on these tiny globes of goodness I chose to go with something a little bit more up my alley, and really, my light and creamy acini di pepe with parsley are worth trying. But the traditional method of serving the peppercorns never quite left my circuits, so for this week’s recipe I gave it a go. And what shall I say: bland and uninspired pasta salads never again!
To me a good salad is all about the textures, the perfect mix of softness and crunch, of succulence and a tad bit of dryness to absorb it all and carry the flavours. And above all, it needs to be light.
My light spring pasta and bread salad
Pita bread, Naan or any other rather thin bread Acini di Pepe Coriander Iceberg Salad Cucumber Red onion Spring onion Capers Radishes Goat Yogurt Dried chili flakes Black pepper
Making this salad is as easy as can be. To feed one person I use about half normal tea-cup of cooked and cold Acini di Pepe, one hand-sized pita bread and half a small iceberg salad. You can obviously vary the amount of ingredients to your liking. I add capers for a kick of unexpected saltiness and the little bit of extra-tang they bring, you can omit this bit, or chose a different kind of brined or pickled condiment. I use goat yogurt here, because it is higher in fat than most cow milk yogurt, while still having a decent amount of tanginess – you wont be needing any oil, but might require a drop or two of lemon-juice, to balance out the flavours, but since you’ve got a tongue, figure that bit out yourself.
Half the iceberg head and wash it. Chop coarsely (some smaller and some larger chunks will add texture), try to use a very sharp knife for this, or else you will bruise and mush the salad. It helps to keep the iceberg salad in a cold fridge before chopping, it will be more crisp then.
Slice a hand full of radishes into thin disks (much like in my radish-salad, putting the little red bulbs into ice-cold water before slicing, will make them more crisp).
Chop a bit of cucumber (this really is up to you, I take about half a normal tea-cup of chopped cucumber). Slice about one (smaller) spring onion into fine rounds, use both the green and the white, there is no need for waste. Dice half a small red onion. And coarsely chop a hand full of coriander (my hands are about medium).
Mix all the chopped greens in a larger bowl with the cooked pasta and about three to four tablespoons of goat yogurt, add a tablespoon of capers, dried chili flakes and salt to the taste and grind in some fresh pepper. Mix thoroughly and, at the very last second before serving, tear apart the pita or naan bread (preferably warmed up in an oven) and add to the bowl. One last tossing, and you are good to go.
Enjoy this for a lovely light spring lunch.