Friday, August 8, 2014

More Summer Salads

Last August, I wrote about summer salads. It seems only fitting that I go for an encore this August.
This time of year, we seem to enjoy trying out different salads, especially ones that will last over several days. A few weeks ago, I tried out a new Greek pasta salad recipe, and we really enjoyed it. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure how authentically Greek it is, but it does include some Greek flavors. 
In addition to the pasta, which is not Greek, the salad includes spinach, red onion, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese. 
Bowl of Kalamata olives
Kalamata olives tend to be one of those foods hat you either really like or really don't. They are typically preserved in wine vinegar and olive oil. They also contain polyphenol which gives them a slightly bitter taste. Kalamatas are a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and  vitamins C, A, E, and K. The majority of their fat is monounsaturated, also known as "healthy fat." 
In case you are interested, Kalamata olives are named for the Greek city of Kalamata which is located in southern Greece (see map). Kalamata's history dates back to Homer. Homer's writings mention a city called Pharai which was located where the Kalamata castle now stands. You can see the castle ruins in the picture below.

Note castle ruins on the hillside above the houses
Kalamata was actually fairly prosperous during the Byzantine era. The following is a picture of the Church of the Holy Apostles which dates back to the 11th to 12th centuries AD.

Getting back to the food …
Here is the recipe, which, of course, includes our modifications:
16 ounce box of pasta (I have used both radiatore and bow tie pasta)
About 1/2 to 2/3 of an 8 ounce bag of fresh spinach
2 cups of cherry or grape tomatoes (if I don't have fresh ones from the garden, I typically buy a container of Cherub tomatoes at the store)
10 ounce bottle of Kalamata olives (drained) Note: if you really don't like Kalamata olives, you could substitute black olives or even just omit them altogether 
8 ounce container of crumbled feta cheese
1 small, chopped red onion
Greek salad dressing (I like the Kroger store brand, but you can use whatever you like)
Salt and pepper to taste.

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse well and allow to cool.
2. Coarsely chop the spinach. What you see in the picture below is a large serving bowl containing a little more than half of an 8 ounce bag of fresh spinach. It's really up to you how much you want to use.  If you look at the picture at the top, you can get an idea as to how this amount disperses through the salad when it is all stirred together.
3. Cut the tomatoes in half. You could leave them whole if you want. For me, cutting them in half avoids getting squirted when you stick your fork into one. In the picture below, you can see the container of Cherubs tomatoes.
4. Stir all of the ingredients together and add enough salad dressing to moisten everything. I typically start with about half of the bottle but then often find that I need to add more dressing before serving.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.