I just adore a person with some fire, passion and loving honesty. I find it tremendously refreshing and attention grabbing when I meet someone that's a little on the “fiery” side, because they awaken my spirit, and I think to myself, “This is someone who says what they mean, and means what they say; they've got some spunk, and I can trust that what I see is exactly what I get.” And I find that admirable, and utterly lovable. In my life, I've known many people that have a bit of “fiery” element in their blood, that spark of energy and engagement with life and with their fellow man, especially since I come from an eastern European background where passion is prevalent and just a natural part of the DNA. And I find myself quite comfortable, at this point, bantering back and forth in heated conversation about this, that or the other thing, loving every moment of the invigorating interaction with a passionate person. People, with all of our colorful backgrounds, are pretty awesome, generally speaking; and when we find something that resonates with us deeply, something that we care about, and that has meaning to us, we animatedly engage one another and come alive. We get a little feisty, a little “fiery”. That being said, it's not at all surprising to me that we desire our food to contain the same qualities: simple honesty, feisty boldness and fiery vibrancy. It's what makes our appetites sing, and creates passion for our taste buds. So when I wanted to create a new recipe for a pasta salad that could be a great lunch-time companion, I thought I'd take some of those wonderful ingredients that have a little boldness in 'em, a little pizzazz, and make a fiery little Italian-style pasta salad to awaken my senses and engage my inner “spitfire”.
As far as I'm concerned, a lunch consisting of chewy-tender pasta that's been drizzled with a spicy tomato-basil vinaigrette and tossed together with salty shaved parmesan, chopped dry salami, artichoke hearts, grilled chicken and crunchy pine nuts, sounds pretty enticing. It's the type of lunch option that I crave and find myself looking forward to diving into, what with all of the tangy flavors and spicy-ness to get me going. A little kick of “fiery-ness” to the taste buds in the middle of day is a good thing; it wakes up the palette and gets the blood pumping again. Suddenly, there's an extra spring in the step to go along with the additional little pinch of “heat” which provides that needed boost of energy and engagement — just what's needed in order to get to that finish-line that is the end of the work day.
So the next time you encounter a “fiery” individual; the next time you come across someone with passion, honesty and boldness, let a little smile cross your lips in the knowing that things could become a bit more interesting and a touch more engaged because of it. And when food imitates life in honest simplicity, vibrancy and big flavor, then the potential for some passion comes into view, and there's never a dull moment. And with this little spitfire of a pasta salad to fuel your desire for taste, you'll definitely be giving new meaning to the term “packing heat”, and enjoy every zippy minute of it. Mangia!
Taste what's good and pass it on.
“The Fiery Italian” Pasta Salad in a Spicy, Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette, with Shaved Parmesan, Dry Salami, Grilled Chicken, Artichoke Hearts and Toasted Pine Nuts
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(Makes 1 lunch portion)
1 cup cooked and cooled bow-tie pasta, drizzled lightly with oil to prevent sticking
2 chicken tenderloins, cooked and sliced into small strips
4 slices of Italian dry salami, sliced into strips
¼ cup artichoke hearts, chopped (frozen and thawed)
1-2 tablespoons kalamata olives (pitted), sliced
1 tablespoon toasted pine nuts
1 tablespoon julienned fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons shaved parmesan cheese
• Spicy, Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette (recipe below)
-To assemble and store the pasta salad, toss all ingredients through the julienned basil leaves together in a bowl; add the ingredients into a tupperware or glass container with a snap-top, and keep in fridge until ready to eat; keep the Spicy, Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette separate in another small container in the fridge, and toss as much of it as you desire with the pasta salad once you're ready to eat.
Spicy, Tomato-Basil Vinaigrette ingredients:
• Drizzle olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons, divided use
½ cup tiny, sugar plum tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• Pinch or two salt
• Pinch or two cracked black pepper
¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less, depending on how spicy you like things)
1 tablespoon julienned fresh basil leaves
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
-Place a small, non-stick pan over medium-low heat, and add a drizzle of olive oil in; once hot, add in the halved sugar plum tomatoes, the garlic, pinches of salt and pepper, the Italian seasoning and the red pepper flakes; gently saute the tomatoes just until they begin to break down an soften, for about 2 minutes.
-Add the sauteed tomatoes directly into the bowl of a food processor, and add in the remainder of the ingredients (don't forget to add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil); pulse a few times, then process for a moment just until well blended and fairly smooth; check the salt/pepper level to see if you need to add more, then transfer to a small, snap-top container, and keep in fridge with pasta salad until ready to use. (*If the vinaigrette becomes a bit thick from being in the fridge, just run the container under hot water to warm it up, and shake well before using.)