Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Asian Pasta Salad with Avocado Dressing

Pasta salad is a picnic and potluck favorite. The thing us, the mayo-coated stuff isn't really that safe to eat after it's been sitting out of the fridge for a while. That, and my aversion to mayonnaise, is why I prefer pasta salads dressed with oil and vinegar. The first type of pasta salad that I ever had was, surprise surprise, my mom's. She makes a killer Mediterranean-style one that is so loved by our family friends that she gets tasked with making at almost every potluck. I guess eating her version for so long made me think of any pasta salad that differed from it as exotic. Not using penne or rotini? Wild! Tossing it with a peanut butter based dressing? Crazy! Using veggies other than tomatoes, celery, peppers and onions? Insane! I've come around though and now I embrace, and then devour, all vegan pasta salads equally.

The salad I made last night reminds me of a vermicelli salad I used to have at Dalat, in Worcester, MA, and of the Thai noodle salad at Chai's, here in Durham. The dressing however, sets it apart from those other salads. It is light on the oil thanks to it's avocado base, and has plenty of acidity from the vinegar. The recipe I've provided for it is, of course, just at template. I chose to include more Asian flavors --ginger, sesame, garlic, rice wine vinegar-- but you can vary the seasonings to suit your taste. For example, if you like to make a Mexican version, you might want to check out Gena's avocado fiesta dressing over at Choosing Raw. I'll bet that giving this a try will convince you to step outside the oil and vinegar box more often.

Do you already make all sorts of crazy pasta salads and dressings? If so, please share your favorites with me.


Asian Pasta Salad with Avocado Dressing

For the salad
Makes 5 large serving
  • 4 1/2 oz / 130 g vermicelli or angel hair pasta, cooked until al dente per the package directions
  • 6 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, coarsely grated
  • 1/2 head red cabbage, cored and cut into thin strips
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1 loosely packed cup of chopped cilantro (less if you're not obsessed with the stuff)
  • 1 cup of dry roasted peanuts
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Chopping up the pasta roughly into thirds (by putting a bunch of it on a cutting board and making two cuts, no fancy work here) helps it mix better with the rest of the ingredients. Toss the salad with the avocado dressing below (I used all of it), or another dressing of your choice, and enjoy.

I suspect this salad will get even better as it sits in the fridge. Guess I'll have to wait until lunch to find out.

For the dressing
Makes approximately 2 cups 
  • 1 medium to large avocado, chopped
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, other vinegar or lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon miso (I used red miso)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 3/4 cups water, more if you'd like it thinner or less if you'd like it thicker
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce or Sriracha sauce
Put all the ingredients into the food processor or high speed blender and whiz until smooth. Toss with your favorite salad. You could also use make this recipe as a dip for some raw veggies; just use less water.

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