Friday, May 13, 2011

Snap Pea and Pistachio Pasta Salad

Photo by Sergio Salvador  www.salvadorphoto.com
This pasta salad is really a winner, and my peas are just starting to fill out in my front-yard raised bed!

Peas are a symbol of spring because they are so frost-hardy, and they need cool weather to grow well. We're already getting peas from California, but here in Albuquerque they usually won't be ready until the end of May. I planted my peas on Presidents' Day according to tradition, and by late June they will be withering in our summer heat.

For me, a great pasta salad is all about the vegetables. This one is absolutely fabulous with fresh peas and pistachios, but it would also be nice with green beans later in the summer. There are a few other tricks to creating a truly excellent pasta salad. Champagne vinegar is wonderful because it is very mild and not bitter. High-quality pasta makes a difference, because it is denser and doesn't fall apart as easily (I recently fell in love with Garofalo pasta). Fresh herbs make it really special. Lemon thyme has become one of my favorite herbs since I planted it last year, but thyme in general is one of the most versatile herbs - it tastes great in everything.. And my final trick... I don't like raw garlic, so I cook it briefly with the pasta, which makes it sweet and mild. This recipe is adapted from one in a recent issue of Cooking Light.

8 oz. uncooked gemelli or other curly pasta
½ lb. sugar snap peas
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 T. champagne vinegar or lemon juice
5 T. olive oil
½ t. coarse salt
½ t. freshly ground black pepper
½ cup shelled pistachios, chopped
2 large sprigs thyme or lemon thyme
2 green onions
1 ounce shaved Parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, until almost tender. Add the peas and garlic cloves during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Drain and rinse the pasta and vegetables with cold water. Mince the garlic. Trim tops and tails off the snap peas and cut into bite-size pieces. Whisk the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the pasta, peas and garlic along with all remaining ingredients and toss well. Serves 4 as a light meal.
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