Sunday, August 21, 2011

Salades Composées #2: Tortellini Salad

It's too hot around here at the moment, and the humidity is way up there, too. I beg the indulgence of my friends in Texas, though: this is nothing like what they've been suffering this year. That's just off the charts.

But it doesn't mean that 90° temperatures in the kitchen are any easier to bear, given how temperate and nice it's been here, or that the lack of breeze doesn't make the air any lighter. So it's time for another salad. This one's an oldie-but-goodie, one I've been making for ages, and one of my favorites. The recipe is simple: the Italian flag.

Green, white, red.

Easy enough. So the first thing you do is make my all-purpose balsamic vinaigrette, which dresses something like 90% of the salads I make. I have this nice little bowl I make it in which I got at an "Asia" store. So first thing I do is crush a garlic clove and wipe it all around the bowl.

Then you add some cheap balsamic vinegar

And then the three essential herbs, right to left, thyme, basil, oregano, in 1-2-3 proportions, using a finger-pinch as measurement.

Then a bit of Dijon-style mustard...

Then you whisk in some olive oil til you've got about this much dressing. 

You can do this anytime. It just gets better as it sits there, trust me. After a week at room temperature it's really good. But this batch was doomed to be consumed the same day. 

You'll want good tortellini if you can get them. In a pinch, those dried ones out of a bag can work, but I find their fillings taste a bit like dust. They've improved over the years, but fresh ones are best, and good supermarket brands are next best. Save the dried ones for snacking right out of the bag. 

This guy kind of gives me the creeps, but he makes okay tortellini and ravioli and stuff. The cooking time is three minutes, and you should never cook them at a rolling boil or they'll disintegrate, so cook them at a moderate boil and -- the first secret of great tortelilni salad -- overcook them. I cooked these for five minutes. The rationale here is simple: as with any pasta salad, as the pasta cools off, it also loses water. 

Okay, red-white-green number one. We can't get regular old green onions here most of the year, so I used one of these "sweet onions." I also wanted a nice pepper salame, but couldn't get one -- limited funds -- so I got some plain old saucisson sec, which is a salame even if the French don't want to admit it. In Germany, I'd get inch-thick slabs of salame and dice it fine back home. Cut the saucisson and the onion white up into small bits and toss in a bowl, and when the tortellini are done, drain them thoroughly and while they're still hot, throw them into a bowl with half your salad dressing and toss like crazy. Another ingredient (white) I'd put in at this point if you an get it is a good sharp Provolone, cut into cubes, but France doesn't believe in Provolone. Or most other furrin' cheeses. Anyway, here's where we are now:

Off to the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, for at least three hours to cool this mess down. Some hours later, the rest of the flag gets set up. I'd really like an avocado here, because that's a great (green) addition. Some of you might like green bell pepper, but not me. I do have some roasted red peppers from Spain here, though. The greens from the onion, a tomato (cherry tomatoes are an even better idea, or grape tomatoes), parmesan, and, to take the place of the Provolone, some balls of crack that Boursin's been plugging of late, both tomato-basil and garlic flavor. Little flavor bombs.

Not as inspiring a line-up as it could be, but overall it turned out okay. Throw down some greens, scatter the crack bombs in them, and ring the tomato around...

and then dump the stuff from the fridge onto it, season with Parmesan, grab that baguette you brought home from the corner bakery, haul the bottle of rosé out of the fridge and... 

...notice half-way through the meal that Mr. Rani's tortellini are bigger than you thought. If I'd been thinking, I would only have used half and put the rest in the fridge for another one. I wasn't thinking, however, but I was still able to pack what remained away. Not as good as if I'd made another fresh, but there ya go. Plus, it was good to see it in the fridge after last Friday's Estivales. Which is another matter to be taken up by the next batch of miettes sometime later in the week, along with ridiculous T-shirts and more. 

Anyway, bon appetit, and stay cool. 

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