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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Peppered California Pasta Salad

Inspired by the California Wine Tasting meetup I recently attended, I prepared an aesthetically pleasing pasta salad that was as delicious as it was beautiful.  The cayenne delivers the zing, while it also marriages a bold burst of citrus infusions.  Ultra healthy and light, it can be eaten warm or cold.  Americans should take a hint from European and Asian cultures and start eating more savory breakfast meals, so surprise your honey with this the morning after, and you may return to the night before.  <3


1 bag whole wheat penne pasta
2 lemons
1 large orange
2 bay leaves
1.5 cup white button mushrooms                                                                                   
1 small red onion
1 large red or orange bell pepper
1 medium tomato
1 cup carrots
1 cup baby spinach
3 slices pepper-jack cheese
1 tsp. cayenne
1/4 cup olive oil
4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar                                                                                   
2 tsp. sea salt
2 tsp. fresh black pepper  


Boil the pasta and drain. Toss with a tsp. of oil and pinch of salt. - set aside.
Chop carrots (I bought pre-julienned-cut)
Dice tomato.
Chop mushrooms.
Dice onion.
Chop bell pepper.
Chop spinach.
Peel and dice orange.
Thinly slice one of the lemons-skin on.
Juice other lemon.
Slice "cheese" into thin long strips.   

In a large mixing bowl:
Add oil, lemon juice, vinegar, chopped fruit and veggies.
Mix well -  I use a large serving fork, so everything retains it's shape.

In a sauce pan on stove:

Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil.

Add 2 bay leaves, and 1 cup of the chopped fresh ingredients from mixing bowl.
Saute for 5 minutes.
Add sauteed ingredients back to large mixing bowl. Remove bay leaves.
Add pasta, "cheese" strips, salt, pepper and cayenne.
Toss well.

Peas, tofu or beans can be added to this dish for extra protein and fiber.

Like, I'm so sure. If you don't even know how to talk like a Californian wine connoisseur, you totally have to learn. Duh.  If you need to try it on for size, pop in some chewing gum, bleach your hair, grab some wine and chill.  I'm just, like, so there, you know.

Serves 8-10

Pairings:  A nice meritage wine, like Hart's Desire, or a Chardonnay

What we sampled at the California Wine Tasting party.
Plenty of distinctive food, ambrosial wine, and compelling conversation.
                             A memorable evening.                     


Pairings Food & Wine Market

     "What is a Meritage wine?"  I asked at Pairings, in Eden Prairie, MN.  I was at Dave's mercy for choosing a bottle, but with his proper guidance I landed upon a wonderful wine that was enjoyed by many at the California Wine Tasting party I attended last evening.  A Meritage wine is "high-end", can not be a mass-marketed wine, a Me'nage a' Trois of certain grapes...Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.  Chosen, was the Hart's Desire  , a meritage that seduced the senses!

At Pairings, they believe in putting the right things together.  The food is fresh, flavorful, and can be paired with a wine or beer of choice from the attatched wine market.  There are events, tastings, and classes.  Saturday nights offer live music on the patio.  6001 Shady Oak Road, Minnetonka, MN