May 182010
 
There are few things better than a picnic.  To just lay around on the ground for hours with good food and good friends on a beautiful day is just about my favorite thing to do.  So I decided to kick off the picnic season (yeah, it’s a season) by making some awesome sandwiches and trying a new pasta salad recipe.  


Every good picnic needs some healthy fresh fruit, so I decided to cut up some kiwi, cantaloupe, and strawberries.  


Then for the sandwiches–a requirement for a good lunchtime picnic.  I thought of my two favorite sandwiches I’ve had so far in New York.  On the left is my version of the grilled chicken press (the #6) from Grey Dog’s: grilled chicken, pesto, tomato, fresh mozzarella, and spinach.  On the right is my personal favorite…my version of the brie, green apple, arugula and honey mustard sandwich from Penelope.  The key is this honeycup mustard which is super spicy and sweet.  Probably my favorite condiment in the world.  And I don’t say that lightly.

    

 

But the real star of this post is this healthy pasta salad.  Pasta salad is one of those things that can be a bit of a let down.  You think noodles and you think it’s gotta be delicious, but then it’s often lacking flavor and freshness.  Well not this one.  With zucchini, tomatoes, whole wheat pasta, chickpeas, Parmesan, fresh herbs, and a bomb homemade dressing, this pasta salad was by far the best one I’ve ever made/tasted.


It’s especially great for a picnic because the dressing won’t get narsty in the heat like most mayonnaise based dressings. Plus it’s a lot better for you. 


Put it all in a picnic basket or cooler and head to your favorite park: Central, Bryant, Madison Square, Prospect…you pick.  But the view from the Sheep’s Meadow in Central park really can’t be beat.  



Nutritional Highlights:  By adding chickpeas, lots of veggies, and a mayonnaise free dressing to whole wheat pasta, pasta salad is no longer something you need to avoid.  This one is high in fiber and vitamins.  For the sandwiches, try to use whole wheat bread and fresh ingredients.  Plus, you can bring a Frisbee or a mitt and softball and get some exercise after your picnic to make it even healthier!


Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Chickpeas and Vegetables:


Ingredients:

2 cups (before cooking) whole wheat pasta (fusilli works great)
1 can Chickpeas
1 large zucchini
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Fresh herbs: I used about 3 tablespoons chopped basil and 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan
Salt and Pepper to taste

Dressing:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 shallot, finely chopped 


Directions:


1.  Bring salted water to a boil and cook pasta as directed, until al dente (this is important! no one likes mushy pasta salad).
2.  While it’s cooking, cut zucchini into quarters and then slice.  I sauteed it in a tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes over medium heat to soften and brown it slightly and to bring out the flavor.  You can also just throw it in raw if you prefer.
3.  For the dressing, simply whisk all ingredients together in a bowl.  
4.  Strain pasta and put in a bowl.  Let it cool for a few minutes.
5.  To the pasta, add cooked zucchini, raw halved grape tomatoes, can of chickpeas (drained), fresh herbs, Parmesan, and salt and pepper.
6.  Pour dressing on gradually, mixing pasta salad and tasting until it is coated to your liking with the dressing.  
7. Pack everything up and go have a picnic!! This would also be great to serve at a BBQ or as a side dish with dinner.  Enjoy!

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