Friday, June 21, 2013

Gluten-Free Pasta Salad

I'm hanging out at a Great Big Gluten Free Barbecue this week. Head on over to FrannyCakes for some other fab recipes from my bloggy friends

Well, kids, we are pretty well into backyard BBQ season. I'm lucky, because the folks I usually dine with al fresco are all down with the gluten-freeness that has to happen. At my house, it's pretty much all GF, all the time, but even when we head to my parents', there are so. many. precautions. in place to help prevent cross-contamination and let me have a safe and yummy time. Plus, it gives me a chance to try out new gluten-free recipes on "normies" to see if they work.

My old stand-by used to be pasta salad. You know the kind, swirly noodles, Italian dressing, the works. I would make huge batches for just about every picnic I'd attend, and nosh on leftovers for days afterward. Last summer, I tried to modify my old "recipe" by just swapping out wheat noodles for some Schar rotini, and it was good, but I thought I could do better.

So I did.

This year's update features something I never thought I would make - salad dressing from scratch. And it was super easy. You can double the batch and keep it in the fridge, but I'm giving specs for just enough for the salad.

Here's what you need:
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
3/4 c. olive oil
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried thyme
2 tsp. onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Just put it all in a bowl and whisk, or, put it in a mason jar and shake. It tastes a lot like the store-bought stuff, but without all the unpronounceable junk. And you get to feel like Ina Garten while making it, so that's cool.

For the pasta salad itself, you need:
1 box GF pasta
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1 small can of black olives
Carrot shards (missing from picture)
2 big bell peppers, or several smaller ones, diced

I use Schar rotini for this, not only because they are my favorite, but because the corn pasta seems to hold up a little better than the rice or quinoa pasta does. You want to cook it a little al dente, too. If you overcook the pasta, you are just going to have a mess. When it's done cooking, run some cold water over it to cool it down, then throw it in a bowl with your other add-ins. I love tomatoes, so I go a bit heavy on them. Same with black olives. I love that you can by the sliced ones - it saves a lot of tedious sous chef work. Usually I throw some carrot shards in, but sadly, when I opened up my bag of carrots (newly purchased, no less), they were wearing some unsightly slimy coats, so they didn't get to come to the party. As for peppers, I'm hooked on these mini sweet peppers. They are perfect for salads, and just general noshing, and I love that you get a big bag of different colors.

Last is the dressing - make sure you mix thoroughly, but gently. Stick that bad boy in the fridge to chill, and you're golden. A word of warning, though - while wheat-based pasta salad lasts for daaaaaaaays in the chillbox, GF pasta salad has a pretty limited shelf life. This is definitely a one-day, two-day at most food. I'm sure it's fine, food-safety wise, to eat it for a few days, but the acid from the vinegar and lemon start breaking down the starch and it just starts to look and taste gunky after day two. But for those first two days, it's money, and everyone will devour it.

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