Monday, May 30, 2011

Cookout Time!

It's time to bust out the grill and all the fixin's that embodies cookout season. This is one of my favorite times of the year. Good food with good friends in the sun. How can you not love it? Well, I guess if it's 110 degrees and no water source in sight than that would not be fun, but other than that it's one of the best times of the year!

Usually this is also the time that I pack back on those 10 pounds that I've been losing and then gaining and then losing again at the gym during those cold, winter months. Let's not bring up winter. I know you didn't; I did, but let's just stop talking about it because it can be depressing. Warm months are ahead!

Speaking of warm months; it used to take me forever to figure out something to bring as a side dish to the different cookouts that wasn't your same 'ole potato salad, slaw, or baked beans. Not that there is anything wrong with those. Believe me I still eat it all......hence the 10 pounds that comes and goes!

The perfect side (in my humble opinion) is one of my very favorite pasta salads. It's super simple, and super-duper yum-my as my 3-year-old says!

Tomato, Asparagus Bowtie Pasta Salad

1 16 oz package Bowtie pasta
1 lb fresh asparagus, cut in bite-size pieces
1 bottle Italian vinaigrette (I use Girard's Olde Venice Italian)
1 oz fresh basil, chopped
1 lemon for zesting and juicing
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup fresh, grated Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Add asparagus to the cooking pasta the last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain pasta and asparagus. Let cool for 10 minutes or longer in a large serving bowl. Add your tomatoes. Zest your lemon over the pasta, asparagus, and tomatoes.

Whisk 1 cup of Italian vinaigrette, basil, garlic, and juice of one lemon in a small bowl. Pour dressing mixture over the pasta salad and 1/2 cup of cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir well, but gently so not to break the pasta.

Cover and chill for at least 1 hour or overnight.

Before serving, stir in remaining dressing, or about 1/4 cup, cover top of the salad with remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

Then don't wait any longer, dig in!

Here's the choir that will make melodious flavor.

Boil your water.

If you don't know how to do that, no offense, but you may not need to be in the kitchen for the safety of those around you.

Pour in your pasta to boiling water, and then get a steam facial.

It definitely helps with opening up your pours. Now go use a facial exfoliator and finish with a good moisturizer.

You have like 9 minutes before your pasta's ready.

While you're getting the facial, multi-task; stir your pasta so it doesn't stick and it begins the cooking process evenly on each noodle.

Cut your asparagus in even, bite-size pieces.

If you don't like asparagus; I will pray for you.

Pour your asparagus in the pot with the pasta.

Cook the asparagus the last 2-3 minutes of the pasta cooking time.

Don't they look happy swimming in there?

Drain and let cool in your serving bowl.

DO NOT RINSE. I repeat DO NOT RINSE, you want all that starchy-goodness left on the noodles to soak up the dressing. You will make the pasta extremely irritable if you rinse it.

They just don't like it; I'm telling you from experience.

The grape tomatoes are waiting patiently.

Half each one.

Dump in the tomatoes with the pasta and asparagus.

Zest your lemon.

This is one of the stars, Girard's Old Venice Italian dressing.

You can use any basic Italian vinaigrette, but this is my go-to, and plus it is currently on sale at Kroger.

Add lemon juice to 1 cup of dressing.

Chop up fresh garlic.

I usually recommend using the jar because it is cheaper in the long run, but when you incorporate in a dish raw, always try to use fresh. It packs some big flavor, and you can taste the difference.

Plus, it was only a little over a dollar for two heads of fresh garlic.

Add the garlic to the dressing.

Cut the fresh basil; FRESH basil.

Add it to the dressing.


Pour over the salad.

Ohhhh this is gonna be good!

Stir well, but gently so not to break the pasta.

You want it to look purty.

See, purty isn't it?

Shred your Parmesan cheese.

Buy the block.

It's cheaper ounce per ounce, then the pre-shredded, and packs more flavor.
But, I won't kick you out of the kitchen if you buy the shredded.

Me LOVE cheese!

Pour in a 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Oh yeah, and a little salt and pepper.

Go easy on the salt because Parmesan has a salty-bite to it naturally.

Mix gently.

Gently I said!

Then cover and chill for at least an hour or overnight.

Pour on the remaining dressing right before serving, about 1/4 cup.

Also, right before serving, cover the top with the remaining cheese.

Serve with your favorite cookout food.

See that yummy burger, well that photo reminded me what I learned from our friend Bill.....

The key to a perfect burger is not only the meat, but the bun.

His secret: buy your buns from WW Cousins. If you live where there is no WW Cousins then you will truly never have a perfect burger.

And I will pray for you again.

Why does the word "buns" make me laugh.

Ok, I know, it's cuz I'm immature.

But you chuckled too! Didn't you?

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