Friday, September 16, 2011

Garden Pasta Salad, hold the guilt... hey, Pesto!

Why does everything have to come with guilt?

I wish they could make an official guilt-free day. Just one day, every two months or so. Where:

a)I don't feel guilty about leaving patients even though my shift finished 2 hours back and I haven't sat down or breathed normally in God-knows-how-long.

b)I can spend a quarter of my pay check on a good meal and not care about how I'm wasting money.

c)I can be the first person to leave the library without giving a flying *beep* about the rest of the homogeneous medico-nerds plodding away at 3000-page texts, oblivious of a world where people breathe and eat and excrete (even though that covers half of Physiology).

d)I can skip gym and watch two back-to-back movies (a chick-flick and depressing, film-noir). Two desserts in one day. One chocolate, one caramel/mint/coffee with chocolate. Back to back, even. Without feeling like ten types of crap.

Is that too much to ask for?

Experience (lousy teacher that she is) clearly agrees. Boring sayings like good things-are-good-only-in moderation and all of that have been proved true.

 Since I've been OD-ing on the cholesterol lately, I thought I'd give you a recipe that is delightful and quite easy to rustle up for one of those weekdays when you've overindulged to the point where you can no longer live in denial.

It's green. And not mint-chocolate chip ice cream from Baskin Robbins.

After a week of Iced mochas and Nutella-from-the-jar, this meal makes me smile extra wide. It's got all my favourite things in it; zucchini, basil, Parmesan, peas, lemon and wholewheat pasta. You can't screw this up even if you tried. Heck, I can't screw it up even if I left the kitchen to watch Bones.

If your family can be picky and complain of the lack of any meat to bite into, you've got tofu here! Don't substitute with paneer, just this once. Not for our collective arteries' states, but tofu works wonders here. Love how it goes from sour beancurd to baked little golden morsel robed in a luscious, creamy pesto and other similar Nigella-isms.

Garden Pasta Salad with Pesto Vinaigrette:

For the Vinaigrette:

1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (I used a mix of basil and spinach)
1/3 cups extra-virgin olive oil (more if you dare)
1/2 c grated Parmesan (I added half parmesan, half pecorino)
1 large lemon, zested and juiced
3 tbsp red or white-wine vinegar (I used Balsamic)
9 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped (you can use less)
1/4 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper

Pasta Salad:

1 package tofu, drained
440 grams whole grain pasta (I used fusilli)
300 g green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup peas
1 medium zucchini, sauteed in 1 tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp toasted walnuts, roughly chopped


Cut the tofu into bite size chunks. Place them a little apart on a baking tray lined with oiled-foil and bake in preheated oven for about 15 minutes until they turn golden.

Slice the zucchini. Place a sauce pan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil. Saute the slices for about a minute. Add salt and pepper to taste. Keep aside.

Make the pesto vinaigrette:

In a mixie or food processor, add the basil/spinach/coriander,olive oil, Parmesan, lemon juice, lemon zest, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Blend until a smooth, mint-chutney-like consistency develops and place in refrigerator until ready to use.

In a large pan, bring 5 litres of salted water to the boil.

Add the green beans and boil for about 5 minutes until they are cooked, but still retain that bite/snap.

Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside.

Add the peas to the leftover boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes until they're cooked (but don't let them mush up too much!) Remove and keep aside.

Add the pasta to the leftover boiling water. Cook until al-dente, as per package instructions. Whole grain generally requires a bit more cooking time, so pay heed!

Your pasta is now ready to be mixed! You can either

1)Place the drained pasta, tofu, zucchini, peas, beans, toasted walnuts in a big bowl and toss them with the vinaigrette. Stash in the refrigerate for about 15 minutes and serve. If you're planning to serve it later (this gives time for the flavours to meld into the pasta), cover with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate. Tastes best cold, like any other pasta salad.

2) Or if your family/friends are a little choosy, you might have plate up for each person separately, mixing-and-matching.

Arrange the stuff (as per requests/demands) on a plate.

Pour over as much vinaigrette as the person desires. Warning: there might be a shortage later.

Toss. Garnish with extra toasted walnuts or Parmesan curls.

Get a load of that goodness. The peas, garlicky pesto, hearty pasta and the nut, in one bite. Mmm. Not cookie-dough-brownie-bar mmm, but Mmm-glorious-food indeed.


  1. Are you sure that the Parmesan you've used in this recipe is Halal? Most aren't, unfortunately.

  2. Hey, there. Yes, most aren't! You have to make sure that the rennet/enzymes used in cheese-making are microbial/halal.
    Thankfully, my dad is paranoid about this (we lived on fruit when in S. Korea)!