End of Summer Pasta Salad

End of Summer Pasta SaladAs summer winds into autumn, I begin to be lulled into a false sense of satisfaction, as crisp nights cause me to begin to dream of sweaters and boots and cooking hearty meals in the kitchen. Then, BAM!, the hot days come back with a vengeance, a t-shirt feels like too much clothing, and there’s no way I’m turning the oven on after all. Happens every year. You’d think I’d learn.

Despite the heat wave, my body has decided it’s pasta time, remembering the chilly mornings before the 100 degree F days. I thought I’d compromise with my cravings by making a cold pasta salad, something assembled, the only heat required being boiled water. I paired dinner with a Red Meritage, enjoying the play of flavors with the different salad ingredients.

End of Summer Pasta Salad

Serves 6-8

1 lb conchiglie pasta
a few splashes of sundried tomato and garlic vinaigrette
4 oz capers
2 roasted red peppers, diced
3 oz kalamata olives
6 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 basket of cherry tomatoes
1 slicer tomato, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese (I used Pennyroyal Farm’s Pepper Moldune. It gave the salad a nice hint of heat.)

Put a large pot of water over high heat. Cook pasta to package directions.
While pasta is cooking, put mushrooms in a large bowl and drizzle a bit of vinaigrette over them. Toss mushrooms until they’re fully coated. Toss roasted peppers, olives, capers, and sliced tomato into the bowl, mix well, and set aside. This will give the mushrooms a chance to soak in the flavors of everything else hanging out with it.
Once pasta is finished, drain and rinse with cold water until the pasta is cool. Work the pasta through your fingers a bit, since conchiglie likes to nest into clumps.
Add cooled pasta, cherry tomatoes, and goat cheese to the bowl with the rest of the ingredients. Drizzle on a bit more vinaigrette and toss until everything is happily mingled.
You can serve right away, or cover it and leave it in the fridge until the next day, as it will be even more flavorful after a night’s rest.

The Cheese Can Stand Alone

Penny Royal FarmsteadSometimes I’m so grateful I’m a supertaster. I want to scream, “Thank you!” at the heavens and do cartwheels.

When I received my first shipment of my Farm to Table program from Pennyroyal Farm, I was blessing each and every taste bud clustered on my tongue.

Charles and I had first gotten the opportunity to sample Pennyroyal’s cheese at the Alsace Festival in Anderson Valley. I could honestly say that I’ve never sampled a more glorious cheese. I was hooked. My need would not be assuaged, so I signed up to have the farm’s creations sent to my door five times a year.

The spring shipment arrived on Thursday, and I instantly grabbed a spoon to try the Laychee. Sweet, salty, slightly tangy and ever-so dreamy creamy, one bite and I knew this cheese had to be the main focus of any dish of which it was a part. That spoonful made my stomach dance with butterflies of pleasure, like the way you felt in third grade when that cute boy with the mop of brown hair looked at you with his azure blue eyes. That first spoonful was like that, except in cheese form.

manicottiTo showcase my new found Laychee love, I decided to make a manicotti dish, but instead of using the traditional ingredients of spinach, nutmeg, pepper, and meat as well as cheese, I just stuffed the pasta with Laychee. I then poured tomato sauce on top and baked the concoction in the oven at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes.

Topped with some Boont Corners, grated finely, before serving and paired with a pinot noir, this ended up being a spectacular way to celebrate my very first cheese shipment. It’s going to be a very long wait for the next one. Until then, I’ll content myself with the final cheese in the first batch — a lovely blue that we’re slowly savoring, paired with almonds and a small glass of tawny port each evening we feel like having a special treat.

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