I'm planning my 4th of July menu since the long holiday weekend us coming up fast. I'm sure there will be grilled steaks and burgers but it's the side dishes that are always way more interesting. No doubt I'll serve a vegetable salad and there will be veggies grilled alongside the meat. Asparagus and corn are our big favorites on the grill. But I just know that everybody is going to want some delicious carbs to go along with it all.
It generally comes down to a choice between a potato salad and a pasta salad but I try to give whichever I choose an original spin. Whenever I give my family a choice between the two, the odds are they'll choose the pasta. But that typically conjures up images of mayonnaise laden deli style macaroni salads and I've never been a huge fan of those.
When I'm prepping salads for a party, particularly ones that will likely be outdoors and in warm weather, I prefer to dress them with a vinaigrette of some kind rather than a mayonnaise based dressing. With this pasta salad, I used a fun shape and gave it 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. I also found garlic scapes at the farmer's market and couldn't resist using them. Their season is short so feel free to use regular garlic if you can't find the garlic scapes. Enjoy!
- 1/2 lb. pasta (your choice of shape)
- 1 cup chickpeas (canned is fine, rinsed and drained)
- 1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves
- 2 tablespoons garlic scapes (finely chopped; or 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon 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 black pepper
- Salt, to taste
Add the pasta to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook according to package directions. Drain and return to the pot. Stir in the rinsed and drained chickpeas and 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, lemon juice, sesame paste, water, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, black pepper and salt.
Toss the pasta, spinach and chickpeas with the dressing and serve at room temperature.