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Chill out with lemony pasta salad

Recipe: Green beans, simple dressing keep salad light

Pasta salad in green bowl
Crunchy, smooth, zesty and cool: It's green bean
and lemon pasta salad. (Photos: Kathy Morrison)

So here we are again, in "I don't want to turn on the stove" season. But we still have to eat. And fresh vegetables are so wonderful this time of year, the last of the spring produce overlapping with the first summer varieties.

This pasta salad, adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe, fits the bill for a light dinner side dish without too much cooking. Adjust the ingredients to suit personal tastes. Add some sliced grilled chicken or diced ham for an entree salad that keeps things cool.

Green bean and lemon pasta salad

Serves 4-6, easily doubled

Ingredients:

6 to 8 ounces fresh green beans, yellow wax beans, or a combination

Coarse salt

8 to 12 ounces curvy dried pasta, such as cellentani, orecchiette or elbow macaroni

Grated zest of 1 lemon (Meyer or tart)

Juice of 1 large or 2 medium lemons (Meyer or tart)

Garlic scapes on a white cutting board
Garlic scapes are the flower stalks of hardneck garlic.

3/8 cup or more extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

4 garlic scapes, trimmed and thinly sliced, or 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion or sliced chives

2 tablespoons, or more, toasted almonds, pine nuts or walnuts, finely chopped

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Mixed baby greens, for serving, optional

Instructions:

Prepare an ice-water bath by filling a large bowl halfway with ice cubes and adding enough water to float the ice.

Bring a 4-quart pot of salted water to boil. Trim the green beans and cut into 2-inch pieces. Blanch the green beans about 4 minutes, just until tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove the beans from the boiling water and add them to the ice-water bath to cool, then remove them to another bowl and reserve. Do not drain the boiling water from the pot on the stove.

Dressing being poured
Drizzle the dressing over the salad.

Add the dried pasta to the boiling water and cook just to al dente texture. Drain the pasta, then spread it on a large rimmed baking sheet. Put the pan in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes, to cool the pasta, but not so long that the pasta becomes very cold. (The dressing will be absorbed better if the pasta is still room temperature.) Transfer the cooled pasta to the preferred serving dish, and stir in the green beans.

Whisk together the lemon juice, zest and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Season with black pepper. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Taste; adjust seasonings.

Drizzle about half of the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Sprinkle the sliced scapes or chopped onion or chives over the pasta, followed by about half of the nuts and half the Parmesan cheese. Add more dressing to taste. Toss again.

To serve as a first-course salad, place a handful of mixed baby greens on each salad plate and spoon the pasta salad over the greens. Top each salad with some of the remaining nuts and Parmesan.

Alternately, pass the serving bowl of pasta salad with the rest of the nuts and Parmesan sprinkled on top as garnish.

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Garden Checklist for week of May 19

Temperatures will be a bit higher than normal in the afternoons this week. Take care of chores early in the day – then enjoy the afternoon. It’s time to smell the roses.

* Plant, plant, plant! It’s prime planting season in the Sacramento area. If you haven’t already, it’s time to set out those tomato transplants along with peppers and eggplants. Pinch off any flowers on new transplants to make them concentrate on establishing roots instead of setting premature fruit.

* Direct-seed melons, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, radishes, pumpkins and annual herbs such as basil.

* Harvest cabbage, lettuce, peas and green onions.

* In the flower garden, direct-seed sunflowers, cosmos, salvia, zinnias, marigolds, celosia and asters.

* Plant dahlia tubers. Other perennials to set out include verbena, coreopsis, coneflower and astilbe.

* Transplant petunias, marigolds and perennial flowers such as astilbe, columbine, coneflowers, coreopsis, dahlias, rudbeckia and verbena.

* Keep an eye out for slugs, snails, earwigs and aphids that want to dine on tender new growth.

* Feed summer bloomers with a balanced fertilizer.

* For continued bloom, cut off spent flowers on roses as well as other flowering plants.

* Don’t forget to water. Seedlings need moisture. Deep watering will help build strong roots and healthy plants.

* Add mulch to the garden to help keep that precious water from evaporating. Mulch also cuts down on weeds. But don’t let it mound around the stems or trunks of trees or shrubs. Leave about a 6-inch to 1-foot circle to avoid crown rot or other problems.

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