It's fully summer here in northeast Tennessee, and the long, hot days don't lend themselves well to lots of cooking in the tiny, window AC-cooled spot where my partner and I live. Add in readily available, fresh cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, however, and you have the perfect conditions to make one of my favorite things — pasta salad! This recipe is quick, easy, and flexible. It's easy to double the amount to take to a cookout with friends, or half it if you need less. Personally, I just make the whole recipe and stash it in the fridge for a week's worth of easy lunches I don't have to think about (it's great the first day but only gets better the longer the flavors have to combine). My take is based on a Jamie Oliver recipe from Happy Days with the Naked Chef, but I add in a few little extras.
1 box small pasta (in the US, a box is typically 1lb, and that's what I'm working from) — in the pic above, I used mini ziti but it also works great with mini shells or orichette
1 pint multi-color cherry / grape tomatoes
1 clove elephant garlic
Couple handfuls of pitted kalamata olives (or to taste)
1/4 oz fresh chives
1/2 oz fresh basil
1 English cucumber
8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (I like to mix it up and use a couple tablespoons of chili olive oil)
1/3 c white wine vinegar (or to taste)
2 oz crumbled goat cheese
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Toss in your pasta and the garlic, and boil until al dente per the directions on your pasta box. Fish out the garlic, drain the pasta and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Add the pasta to a large bowl, or just wait for the pot to cool and use that. It's your life, my dudes. Do what you like here.
Peel the cucumber, slice in half length-wise, and scoop out the seedy, goopy bits from the middle. (Yes, I know English cucumbers are usually marked "seedless," but that is an imperialist lie.) Half each side again, and then chop cross-wise into small pieces. Toss em in with the pasta.
Quarter the tomatoes, finely chop the chives and basil, and add those to the pasta as well.
Mash up the garlic with a mortar and pestle, the back of a spoon, an electric chopper, or whatever you have to hand. Whisk together with the white wine vinegar and garlic, then add to the pasta and veggies. Add salt and pepper to taste and mix together well.
Finally, add in your crumbled goat cheese and mix again. There's something about the goat cheese that really brings it all together. I like to mix it in last so it doesn't absorb too much of the liquids, but YMMV. Do you, fam.
You can also experiment with other summer veggies, or different herb blends. Swap out some of the vinegar for a bit of lemon juice. Give it a shot! See what you come up with and leave a comment to tell me about it.