Pasta and Tuna Salad, January of 2010
During the last season of “Top Chef,” Tom and Padma “grilled” 2 Chefs, Ashley and Preeti, for making basic Pasta Salad. The dialogue goes “something” like this:
Padma: Who made the Pasta Salad?
Ashley and Preeti: (shoulder shrugs) We did.
Tom: Whose idea was it?
Preeti: I don’t know; we both did.
Tom: Ok. Who jumped up and said “PASTA SALAD?”
Preeti: I don’t know if anyone jumped; we don’t know how the idea came up, but we thought it was a good idea.
Tom: Ashley, you had one great dish and then you made a disappointing Pasta Salad (picture Tom’s major frown). Why?
Ashley: I finished my first dish early and had some time left over; I thought it would be a good idea to use the remaining time while I had it.
Padma: It actually WASN’T a good idea!
Tom: I still want to know whose idea it was because it wasn’t the right dish for this event. At this level of the competition, making a Pasta Salad just doesn’t cut it!
Padma: I agree. I found the Pasta Salad to be boring and very uninspiring.
Ashley: Ok, I guess the Pasta Salad WAS my idea.
Preeti: I have a question. Do you think that making hot Clam Chowder and serving it outside during a 95 degree day is a great idea?
Padma: I don’t know if it was a great idea, but it tasted a lot better than that Pasta Salad (mentioned earlier).
Bla Bla Bla…
Pictured above: Free advertising and my Pasta Dish.
Many of my dishes are usually variations from a wide range of cookbooks, some private cooking classes, my past and present, food and catering jobs, eating for 30+years (ahem), and some cooking programs. I used to shop at Waldbaum’s in Staten Island (circa 1980’s) and obtained items from the Deli counter. I vaguely remembered a basic Pasta Salad… It was not the focal point because it was a filler side dish. I did not feel the need to reinvent it; I just accepted it as something else to get when Potato Salad or Cole Slaw grew tiresome. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I saw the aforementioned episode of Top Chef… The Pasta Salad really stood out as a major sore spot because it was a substandard failure in a highly competitive arena. Since that episode continues to linger in my mind, I decided to make my version of a Pasta Salad with Albacore Tuna. Many variations are possible simply because you can change the type of Pasta and incorporate an extremely wide range of raw or roasted vegetables…
Pasta: Rotini, Elbow, Farfalle (Bow Tie), etc. Decide if you want a basic Semolina Pasta or any of the new Whole Wheat versions. Prepare 2 cups by following the directions on the box. I’m a fan of slightly al dente Pasta (mush it not a good thing).
Roasted Garlic: Prepare way ahead of time. Take 4 entire Garlic bulbs and cut off the tops. Douse the Garlic with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkle with Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper. Put in a Convection Oven on 325. The key to successful Roasted Garlic is the “low and slow” method. Keep the temperature low, cook it slowly, and brush the oil over the Garlic every 10-15 minutes. If the oil is absorbed by the Garlic, add more oil. Cook for around 45+ minutes or until it begins to carmelize, turn brown, and blister slowly. Don’t burn it!
Mayo—a scant ½ cup of regular or low fat/calorie.
Italian Dressing—any brand, anywhere, anytime. ¼ cup+
Albacore Tuna—2 cans; drain it well or suffer from mushy consequences (mentioned earlier).
Vegetables: Black Olives (1/4-1/2 cup), marinated or plain Artichokes (Hearts of Palm can work too), tomatoes (regular and/or sun-dried), diced Red Onions (about ½ cup), chopped celery (1/4 cup), diced Red/Green Pepper (1/4-1/2 cup), shredded raw carrots or roast them ahead of time with E.V.O.O. Salt & Pepper (1/4-1/2 cup), etc.
Salt & Pepper seasoning—Adjust accordingly…
Italian Seasoning—a scant ¼ teaspoon.
1- Prepare the Roasted Garlic (optional roasted vegetables) and Pasta ahead of time.
2- Cut up all of the desired raw vegetables.
3- Mix the Mayo and Salad Dressing; toss and coat the vegetables. Put it aside for about 15 minutes.
4- Break up the Tuna and gently fold it into the vegetables; make sure that gets coated as well. See if you like the consistency because you might want to add more dressing. Also, season with Salt & Pepper, and taste it.
5- Add the pasta, toss and coat, and taste it again. Don’t taste it too much because you might want some for your guests; it’s just a thought.
6- Garnish the Pasta with Roasted Garlic pieces for that dramatic effect. Yeah, drama works here—go for it.
7- Sprinkle the Italian Seasoning lightly for more beauty.
8- Serve it up! I like this dish and I hope that you will too!
Evan J. wanna be gourmet…