Today’s meatless Monday recipe is a zesty vegetable pasta salad inspired from this week’s CSA bounty of zucchini and cucumbers among other fruits and vegetables. Since joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) a few years ago, I have enjoyed eating with the seasons. It is a great feeling knowing that you are supporting your local farmers, learning about your food and how its grown and building a relationship with your farmer.
My favorite local farm is Garden of Eve Organic Farm and Market located in Riverhead, New York. It is a 1 1/2 hour drive from Queens, but I enjoy the trip as it allows me to get away, do something different, visit the farm, the animals, pick up my CSA share and maybe purchase a plant or two for my garden.
Eating with the seasons and being connected with a CSA has also helped me to become a bit more creative with my foods and to explore and experiment with various seasonal vegetables such as fennel or garlic scapes. Seasonal cooking is a fantastic way to enjoy sweet, juicy fruits and delicious vegetables when they are in season. Eating seasonally and locally is healthier, the costs are reduced and it has major benefits to the environment.
Fruits and vegetables grown in season are often sweeter, tastier, ripe, juicy and more nutritious than if you are eating them off-season. They are usually found in abundance and are most likely to be discounted in supermarkets or at local farmer’s markets so that they sell faster. When you eat locally you have an opportunity to help the environment by reducing your carbon footprint. This means that your food doesn’t have to travel long distances thus requiring extra fuel, refrigeration, preservatives or coatings to protect them during their journey. Ultimately resulting in savings for you, the consumer.
So lets prepare this meal. We start by cooking the pasta according to the package directions. Once cooked set aside. While pasta is cooking and cooling prepare the remaining ingredients for the salad.
Wash and cut the tomatoes, yellow squash, cucumbers and shallots and set them aside. I find it is so much easier to prepare and have everything that is needed on hand before the final step.
Prepare cooked black beans or drain 1 can of black beans and set aside.
Here’s a helpful tip: You can prepare and cook large quantities of beans of various sorts except lentils, measure out 1 1/2 cups and store them in zip lock freezer bags in your freezer. Be sure to date each bag so that you know when the batch was made.
This prevents you from having to use canned beans which may be loaded with salts or preservatives. When needed, just thaw a bag out and it is usually ready in a few minutes. You will be pleasantly surprised at how great they taste in comparison to the canned beans.
Next, chop the scallions and fresh basil and set aside. Whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette and set aside.
Now isn’t this pretty? The beautiful colors of fresh summer vegetables and black beans.
In a large bowl add the cooked pasta, chopped vegetables, beans and shallots.
Next, add the scallions, basil and vinaigrette and toss together well.
Refrigerate until chilled or ready to serve. Leftovers can be stored in a covered container for lunch or dinner the following day.
This gorgeous salad can be served on its own, or with meat or fish if desired. You can also serve it in lettuce cups or on top of a bed of salad greens. Whatever is your preference, this healthy, delicious and versatile salad is sure to please.
How do you eat with the seasons and what is your favorite season?
- 2 cups whole wheat elbow pasta
- 2 medium yellow squash - cubed
- 2 small cucumbers - cubed
- 28 cherry tomatoes - halved
- 1 medium shallot - chopped
- 1½ cups cooked black beans or 1 can - drained
- I stem of fresh basil - chopped
- 1 scallion (green onion) - chopped
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- 2 tbsp avocado oil
- ½ tsp paprika
- ½ tsp garlic powder
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- ¼ tsp dried oregano
- Salt & pepper - to taste
- Cook pasta according to package directions - set aside
- Wash and cut vegetables - set aside
- Prepare cooked black beans or drain 1 can of black beans - set aside
- Chop scallions and fresh basil - set aside
- Whisk together vinaigrette - set aside
- In a large bowl add cooked pasta, vegetables, beans and shallots
- Add scallions, basil and vinaigrette
- Toss together well and refrigerate until chilled
- Serve and enjoy