Chilled spaghetti salad
Ah, September. So quickly you arrived and then exited. Fall is, indeed, here.
The second of my three tomato gardens came down this weekend. Sigh. The third is still pumping out healthy fruit at a rapid pace (faster than I can keep up with in terms of preserving them).
I experimented this year with grafted tomato plants: taking the root stock of a super-vigorous tomato cultivar (that produces terrible tasting tomatoes, natch) and grafting onto it a low performing, disease prone variety, like delicious heirlooms. The disease resistance and growth productivity of the root stock supports the heirloom’s attractive qualities, making for a stronger plant.
Although I was initially skeptical, this has, by and large, proven to be the case. Of the eight tomato plants remaining in my third tomato garden, five of them are grafted (and two others are cherries, which are super hardy by their very nature). Disease has affected them very little, despite the toll that early blight took on Tomato Garden #2.
I shouldn’t have been surprised, really. Modern apple trees are all grafted (it is, I’m told, nearly impossible to grow a healthy, productive apple tree from a single seed anymore). So, although early plans for 2014 including cutting back on my tomato growing, I’m thinking of upping the percentage of grafted plants (the grafting process itself is a p-i-t-a, though. I struggled with the proper growing conditions — the environment that is perfect for nurturing seedlings turns out not to be all that for grafts — and had many failures. More practice needed there).
But, fall temperatures have been kind thus far, and, along with a few pumpkin and squash dishes sprinkled here and there to soothe the fall food cravings, I’m still enjoying salads from my garden.
Hands down, my favorite go-to dish this summer has been the chilled spaghetti salad. Introduced to me by my brother, it’s a weekly (at least) dinner selection. I love that it’s prepare-ahead, one-bowl friendly, and leftovers (if there are any) are just as delicious.
Speaking of bowls … see this little beauty? I was on the hunt for a ginormous mixing bowl one day — roomy, white, preferably vintage — when I came across a modern, handmade bowl on etsy that I just fell in love with. When it arrived, it was everything I dreamed, and I immediately went back to order this little pearl green number (the helper handles on these bowls just slay me — they’re the cutest things, ever).
Vintage finds are a thrill, but there’s something extra satisfying about purchasing handmade art directly from the artist. I love these bowls, and the next time you’re looking to supplement your kitchenware, I encourage you to check out the Etsy store of Cheryl Wolff.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll get a chance to prepare this cold spaghetti salad, if you haven’t tried its ilk before. Pasta lovers will are guaranteed to adore this minimally adorned, completely satisfying dish.
- 1 box dried spaghetti (volume varies these days by brand – I used a 13 ounce box)
- 1 heaping cup, total, small diced vegetables (see suggestions above)
- Your favorite vinaigrette (a light olive oil-based dressing works really well here – you want a background note of dressing, not an overwhelming hit of it)
- 2 ounces feta or goat cheese, crumbled
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Prepare the spaghetti according to package directions. Rinse well with cool water and let drain. Add a light drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and toss the spaghetti gently to work the oil throughout. (At this point, the spaghetti can sit while you finish dicing the vegetables, if necessary.)
- Using tongs, grab a large tangle of spaghetti and lay it in a large bowl. Drizzle a bit of of the vinaigrette over the noodles, along with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Spoon half of the vegetables over the top, and season with a pinch of salt. Repeat with the remaining noodles and vegetables. Drizzle more dressing over the top, and use the tongs to gently mix everything together, pulling a layer of noodles from the bottom of the bowl up to the top with each pass. The vegetables have a tendency to sink to the bottom, so make sure you get them mixed in. Add a drizzle of dressing as you go. The noodles should be glossy, but not dripping, and there should not be a puddle of dressing in the bottom of the bowl (drain it off, if there is).
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least two hours. Before serving, drizzle a bit more vinaigrette on the salad, along with another pinch of salt and pepper, and toss gently.