Summer cookout season means lots of gatherings for grilled steaks, burgers, chicken and hot dogs. But it is the side dishes that are always a way to make the meals more interesting.
There will, most likely, be vegetable salads and plenty of grilled veggies alongside the meat. Fresh asparagus and summer corn are big summer favorites on the grill. But the meal never seems to be quite complete without some delicious carbs to go along with it all.
More often than not, it comes down to a choice between potato salad and some kind of pasta salad but there's no reason not to give these old favorites an original spin. Pasta salads conjure up images of mayonnaise laden deli style macaroni salads and potato salads are usually similar albeit with a few more ingredients.
When you are prepping salads for a party, particularly ones that will likely be outdoors and in warm weather, consider dressing them with a vinaigrette of some kind rather than a mayonnaise based dressing. That will allow them to sit out for much longer and remain food safe without the need for refrigeration.
Leaving out the mayo, though, certainly does not mean leaving out the flavor. This particular pasta salad gets a Middle Eastern flavor profile with the addition of chickpeas, za'atar and a touch of tahini in the vinaigrette. It thickened up the dressing and gave it a great nutty flavor. Seasonal garlic scapes from the farmer's market add a burst of flavor but feel free to use regular garlic if you can't find the scapes. Their season is very delicious but also sadly very short.
- For the Salad:
- 1/2 lb. dry pasta (your choice of shape)
- 1 cup chickpeas (canned is fine, rinsed and drained)
- 1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
- For the Dressing:
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic scapes (or 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon sesame paste (tahini)
- 3 - 4 tablespoons water (depending on desired consistency)
- Pinch of red pepper flakes, to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Salt, to taste
Add the pasta to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook according to the package directions. Drain the cooked pasta and return to the pot. Stir in the rinsed and drained chickpeas as well as the baby spinach leaves. Note that the residual heat of the pasta will cook the spinach down a bit.
Make the dressing by whisking together the chopped garlic scapes or minced garlic, olive oil, fresh lemon juice, sesame paste, water, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, ground black pepper and salt.
Toss the pasta, spinach and chickpeas with the dressing and serve at room temperature.