Tuesday Dinner: Spanish Pasta Salad

Summer cooking is great because you can use a grill to cook things over a fire outdoors and avoid sweating your ass off in the kitchen. Not that you can’t do this in the winter, but the cold air around you makes it really tough to maintain the proper temperature on the surface.

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Of course, it’s easy to get caught in cooking ruts where everything tastes like your grill and you get stuck in the routine of burgers, chicken, steak, pork, repeat. So, you have to find a balance between the glory of the grill and the fruits of your kitchen. Pasta is an option, certainly, but heavy sauces bog you down. Pesto is nice because you can trim fresh basil from your home garden. And so is this Spanish pasta salad from Daniel Gritzer at Serious Eats.

20150615165046There’s a lot of flavors here, but what is nice is that they all blend well. Sharp onion, sweet piquillos, spicy chorizo, bitter lemon and smokey Spanish paprika, all with a vinegar bite. It works perfectly well as a summertime side or as a main when you don’t feel like cooking anything else.

WHAT WORKED: The flavor complements, as mentioned above.

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WHAT DIDN’T: Finding fideuà is damn near impossible outside of a major city. Barilla gemelli or mezze penne are worthy substitutes. I used Wegmans’ Italian Classics Bucati Rigati.

EASE OF PREPARATION: Easy. It’s a summer salad, so it should be.

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BEST FOR: A mid-week lazy dinner, or a pasta dinner when you are entertaining or being entertained elsewhere.

SERVE WITH: An Estrella Damm, because you should be as festive as your salad.

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Spanish Pasta Salad
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced finely 
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 lb. small pasta, such as fideuà (see note above), macaroni, or ditalini
  • Kosher salt
  • 5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12 oz. Spanish (cured) chorizo, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and minced
  • 1 tsp. Spanish-style smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp. saffron (or American safflower)
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted or grilled piquillo peppers from 1 (12-ounce) brine- or oil-packed jar
  • Zest and juice of a lemon

Add the onion to a small bowl and cover with the sherry vinegar. Allow it to stand, uncovered, at room temperature and pickle for 30 to 60 minutes.

Bring a pot of water to boil, salt it liberally and cook the pasta to 2 minutes past the recommended time for al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander and stop the cooking by using cold tap water. Drain well, shaking as much water as possible from the pasta. Drizzle 2 to 3 tbsp. of olive oil over the pasta and toss to coat. Let stand in the sink.

Cook chorizo for 7 minutes over medium-high heat in a small skillet until the fat renders and the sausage is brown and crispy in spots. Add the garlic and cook 1 additional minute.

In the bowl you intend to serve the salad, combine the chorizo and garlic, any assembled fat, saffron, paprika, piquillo peppers, and lemon juice and zest. Drain all but a tablespoon of sherry vinegar from the onions and add those to the serving bowl. Toss well with olive oil. Add the pasta and toss well. Serve immediately. I tossed a little goat cheese on top, just for fun, but it's not necessary.

Adapted from the original by Daniel Gritzer at Serious Eats

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