Taking the mystery and fear out of cooking
The very mention of the word ‘salad’ might suggest that it would be suitable for vegetarians, but that’s just not true. In some places (fast food outlets, for instance) they are quite likely to put bacon bits in there just so you don’t get away with eating healthily. If you think of a salad as something that contains lettuce, that’s just the classic plateful. Salads are usually cold, but can involve cooked vegetables. They can be warm, too – nothing technically wrong with that.
The one we’re looking at here is a vegetarian version of a tuna one we did a few months ago. It’s got lettuce and cold pasta, but if you take out the tuna, that’s all the protein gone. We are going to replace that with eggs. And we’re going to liven it up with artichokes and walnuts. If you never thought you would end up using artichokes – those spiky, weird things that look like medieval weapons and seem barely edible, be grateful to the people who cut them, prepare them and put them in jars.
The dish is a balance of vegetables, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and pasta, which gives it carbohydrates and bulk. But if you think of a meal of just pasta and lettuce, it’s like a film with no action, so we’re packing it with grenades of flavor.
Make more than enough. It’s not hugely filling and if you make a good one, people may well want seconds.
The choice of leaves is crucial, too, as some of the common types can be bitter. The very floppy green ones are just a bit too 1960s, when the world thought lettuce was lettuce and that was it. Iceberg is crunchy and easy to use but lacks flavor.
If you’re not sure, buy a bag of mixed leaves. That will save you having to clean and chop them anyway, although unless it says on the bag that they’re washed and ready to eat, give them a rinse in a colander and a good shake to get rid of the water.
Penne (or farfalle (bowties) or fusilli or rotini (the twisted ones)
Lettuce (cos or romaine)
Soft boiled eggs (one per person)
Artichokes (a jar or two, ready to use)
Walnuts (a bag or two, shelled and ready. Pecans would do)
Boil the pasta, drain it, return it to the pan, fill the pan with cold water and repeat until the pasta is cool. Make sure it ends up dry.
Boil the eggs (see below), cool them in the same way and shell them carefully.
Unless you have your own tried and tested way, try this: Put the eggs in the saucepan, cover them with cold water by about half an inch (1cm), bring to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer and give them four minutes. Then get them into cold water so they don’t cook any further.
Put the pasta in a big salad bowl and add about the same quantity of leaves. Add the artichokes (drained, but a little of the liquid won’t hurt, because it has flavour). Sprinkle in the walnuts. Drizzle with olive oil and squeeze on half a lemon for two people, more for more people.
Mix it up (with your hands is best, or use salad utensils).
Serve in big bowls if you have some, big plates if you don’t, and place the egg halves on top. Make sure there is salt and pepper on the table.