Recipes to kick off the summer season

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Claire Watson wrote to this recipe column sharing a cold pasta salad recipe.

Since Memorial Day has passed and the unofficial beginning of the summer is here, picnic, potluck, barbecue, and family reunion seasons have begun. Claire sent in a recipe she often makes for such events. It makes a large quantity, so it is best for large groups. She got the original recipe online and then tweaked it based on hundreds of reviews and her personal preferences. She hopes you will enjoy it.

Antipasto Pasta Salad

1 pound tricolor rotini pasta

1/2 pound pepperoni, sliced and halved

8 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese

1 (6-ounce) can black olives, drained and sliced

1 red bell pepper (or 1/2 each red and yellow peppers), chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 carton grape tomatoes

1 (0.7-ounce) package dry Italian dressing mix

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon dried parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente; drain and rinse with cold water. In large bowl, combine pasta, pepperoni, Parmesan, olives, bell peppers and tomatoes. Stir in the packet of Italian dressing mix. To prepare dressing, whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, oregano, parsley, and salt and pepper. Refrigerate pasta mixture at least one hour (can be refrigerated overnight). Just before serving, pour dressing over salad and mix well.

Lobster and Shells

While we are on the topic of cold pasta salads, I have discovered imitation lobster meat in the refrigerated section alongside the imitation crab, and it is a suitable substitute for some dishes to serve the family on busy nights. Of course, it would be far superior if you used real lobster, but also the cost would reflect that quality.

Kosher salt

Good olive oil

1 pound small pasta shells, such as Ronzoni

Kernels from 8 ears of corn (about 6 cups)

12 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

2 yellow or orange bell peppers, seeded and diced small

2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved

2 pounds cooked fresh lobster meat, diced medium

1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)

Freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups minced fresh dill

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt and some olive oil. Add the pasta and cook it for 8 to 10 minutes, until al dente. Add the corn to the pasta and cook it for another 2 minutes, until the corn is tender. Drain the pasta and corn together in a colander and pour them into a large mixing bowl. Add the scallions, diced pepper, tomatoes and lobster, tossing gently to combine. Allow to cool slightly. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, 4 teaspoons salt and 2 teaspoons pepper until smooth. Pour over the pasta and mix well to bind the ingredients. Stir in the dill. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for up to 6 hours to allow the flavors to develop. Check the seasonings and serve chilled or at room temperature.

You can wrap one or both tightly in plastic wrap and heavy-duty aluminum foil and freeze up to three months. You can be creative and do your own thing with this recipe.

Butter Brickle Loaf Cakes

1 cup pecans, chopped

1 box yellow cake mix

1 box vanilla instant pudding mix

4 large eggs

3/4 cup water

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon butter flavoring

1 cup almond brickle chips or Skorr's English Toffee Chips

Bake pecans on a baking sheet at 350 for 5 minutes or until toasted, stirring once. Set aside. Beat cake mix and next 5 ingredients at medium speed with an electric mixer for 5 minutes. Stir in almond brickle chips just until blended. Sprinkle toasted chopped pecans evenly over bottoms of 2 lightly greased 9-by-5-inch loaf pans. Pour cake batter evenly over pecans. Bake at 350 for 55 minutes or until a toothpick, inserted in center, comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks. Yield: 2 loaf cakes.

Note: find almond brickle chips make by Heath or Skore English Toffee chips on the aisle with chocolate morsels.

Variation: chocolate chip loaf cakes; substitute 1 cup (6 ounces) semisweet chocolate morsels for almond brickle chips.

Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon

Keeping with the picnic and potluck theme we have going, I could not pass up this recipe. The bacon alone is wonderful with the hint of cayenne pepper, and combined with the other ingredients these are really nice deviled eggs.

1 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar

Cayenne pepper

Pinch ground cinnamon

1/8 pound thick-cut bacon (about 3 strips)

8 large eggs, straight from the refrigerator

1/4 to 1/2 cup mayonnaise, or as much as desired

2 teaspoons whole grain mustard

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 scallions, minced

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Paprika, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, a pinch of cayenne and the cinnamon. Place the bacon on a wire rack set over a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle each slice of bacon with some of the spiced sugar and bake, about 10 minutes. Flip the bacon, sprinkle with the remaining spiced sugar and continue to cook until crispy, about 10 more minutes. Remove the bacon from the oven and allow to cool. When the bacon is cool, mince it and set aside, reserving a quarter of it for garnishing the eggs. Put the cold eggs in the bottom of a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan with a lid and let stand for 12 minutes. Drain the eggs and rinse with cold water. Let the eggs cool a bit and then peel when they are still warm (eggs are much easier to peel when they are warm). After they are peeled, you can then store them, covered, in the fridge. Mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, dill, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, the scallions and the minced bacon in a medium mixing bowl. Season with the salt.

Slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Gently remove the yolks by pressing your thumb against the back of the yolk to pop it out of the white. Add the yolks to the bowl with the mayonnaise mixture. Mash together, using a fork, until smooth. Put the filling in a resealable bag. Cut one end off and pipe the filling into the egg whites. Sprinkle with the paprika, extra bacon bits and dill before serving.

Have a great week, and until next time, happy cooking.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at news@semissourian.com or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by Southeast Missourian staff.

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