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Make a cool summer pasta salad

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Pasta salads are one of my favorite things, especially for lunch in the summer. I found a good, versatile recipe for a pasta salad in the latest issue of Cooking Pleasures, the magazine of the Cooking Club of America. You can adapt it to any cooked, flaked fish such as tuna (an easy option) or cooked salmon, or move up the scale to little cooked salad shrimp (or even cut prawns once you cook them).

This recipe includes a trick that I figured out some time ago, which is to drop a vegetable, in this case broccoli florets, into the boiling pasta water about a minute before the pasta is ready. You can cook the broccoli a little longer if you prefer it more tender, of course, but this method works just fine and you end up with two components of your salad ready.

All cooked pasta must be refrigerated before you create the final salad, so just drain it and line a covered storage box with paper towels before you put it in to cool for at least an hour. While that is happening you will be cutting some grape tomatoes in half crosswise and squeezing out the seeds, and peeling and slicing some small cucumbers.

If you can get fresh dill, you will be mincing some up for the salad, but if you can't find it, sprinkle dried dill over the pasta before you refrigerate it. If you are comfortable with a bottled salad dressing, this particular recipe calls for ranch, but you can also make ranch dressing with superior ingredients by looking for the Good Seasons dry mix in your friendly local supermarket. You will then have a choice to make it with either dairy products, dairy substitutes or whatever. Typically you use part plain yogurt and part mayonnaise, but it could also be sour cream or non-dairy yogurt such as Silk.

SUMMER PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:

1 cup salad pasta such as tri-color corkscrews, cooked and drained
1 cup small cut broccoli florets
About 5-8 ounces drained, flaked fish such as tuna
1/2 cup cut, seeded grape tomatoes
1/2 cup cut, peeled cucumber slices
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or less, to taste)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ranch-style dressing

Cook and cool the pasta and broccoli florets. Refrigerate them until you are ready to put the salad together.

Mix the fish with the tomatoes and cucumber slices. Add the dill if you didn't put it over the pasta and tomatoes. Stir in the salt.

Stir in the pasta and broccoli florets, and finally fold the dressing into the dish to finish it. Serve it prettily on chilled plates if you want to fancy up lunch with a friend.

This salad will go well with an astringent white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Chardonnay. My ever-present crusty bread and butter are always ready to put on the side for a lovely meal.

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