Pasta can replace ordinary picnic fare

June 19, 1996|By EATING WELL

Picnics don't have to be limited to hamburgers and hot dogs. A world of flavors can be found in the three portable dishes below.

Roasted vegetable and linguine salad

Makes 4 servings

3/4 pound linguine

1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin

1 1/2 pounds asparagus, trimmed and peeled

3 bunches scallions, trimmed

2 large red bell peppers, seeded

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon fresh black pepper

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Position racks in lower third and middle of oven; heat to 450 degrees.

Break linguine into pieces about 3 inches long. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook linguine until al dente, six to eight minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool. Press to remove excess water. Transfer to a large bowl, toss with 1 teaspoon of the oil and set aside.

Cut asparagus and scallions into pieces about 3 inches long. Slice red peppers into thin strips. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil, salt and pepper.

Divide vegetables between two large baking sheets, spreading them in an even layer. Roast for about 10 minutes, stir vegetables and switch the positions of the baking sheets. Continue roasting, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and browned, 10 to 15 more minutes.

Add vegetables to linguine and toss to combine. Add Parmesan and vinegar and toss again.

(The salad can be prepared ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to one day. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Test kitchen tip: Be careful not to overcook pasta, as it will soften further as it absorbs the dressing.

Nutrition note: The reds and greens of this salad hint at its richness in folic acid and carotenoids.

Per serving: 520 calories, 21 grams protein, 14 grams fat (3.8 grams saturated fat), 79 grams carbohydrate; 785 milligrams sodium; 10 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fiber.

Pasta salad Nicoise

Makes 4 servings

2 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 7-ounce cans solid white tuna packed in water, drained and flaked

1/2 cup diced bottled roasted red peppers

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives or scallions

1/4 cup chopped pitted black olives

2 tablespoons drained capers

2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper

1/2 teaspoon red-pepper paste, such as harissa (optional)

3/4 pound small pasta shells

With a chef's knife, mash garlic and salt into a paste. Transfer to a large bowl and add tuna, peppers, basil, chives or scallions, olives, capers, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, pepper and red-pepper paste, if using. Toss gently to combine. Let stand for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook shells until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool. Press to remove excess water.

(If not serving immediately, toss shells with 1 teaspoon oil. Refrigerate shells and the tuna mixture separately for up to 1 day.)

Add the shells to the tuna mixture and toss gently to combine.

Nutrition note: The heart-healthy components of this salad -- pasta, tuna, vegetables, olive oil -- add up to a near-perfect light -- meal for anyone concerned both with blood cholesterol and good taste.

Per serving: 540 calories, 38 grams protein, 12 grams fat (2 grams saturated fat), 68 grams carbohydrate; 865 mg sodium; 42 mg cholesterol; 1 gram fiber.

Southern pasta salad with black-eyed peas

Makes 6 servings

1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)

1/2 pound small elbows or other small pasta shape

1/2 pound Swiss chard (not the red variety), washed and cut crosswise into thin strips

1/2 pound smoked turkey, chopped

2 14-ounce cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup chopped sweet onions, such as Vidalia

1/4 cup brewed coffee or tea, such as Lapsang Souchong

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

1/2 tablespoon molasses

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and let stand until soft, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool. Cut into slivers and set aside.

In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente, about five minutes; add chard during the last minute of cooking. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold water until cool. Press to remove excess water and transfer to a large bowl. Add turkey, black-eyed peas, onions and the reserved tomatoes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add to the pasta and chard; toss until well combined.

Variation: Other flavorful greens, such as arugula or watercress, can replace the chard in this salad, but should be added raw at the end.

Nutrition note: This is rich in carotenoids, which are less well known than beta carotene but rich in disease-fighting properties.

Per serving: 442 calories,24 grams protein, 7 grams fat (1 gram saturated fat), 73 grams carbohydrate; 140 mg sodium; 26 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fiber.

Pub Date: 6/19/96

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