But then with the arrival of summer's heat and the first homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers of the year, I started on a quest to make a homemade zesty Italian which could rival the store-bought stuff and do this salad justice. And I think I came up with a fairly good version (but I am still tweaking it here and there). And I am now once again making this salad that I love so much (but unfortunately, I can't say the same for all my children).
This salad is so simple and it's perfect on a hot summer's day with some buttered bread on the side and a glass of ice water or lemonade.
(I know it's not the best picture,
but we were already eating it for dinner when it dawned on me to take a photo of it.)
Here is what I do for my family of 6 (which leaves some leftovers):
First step: Cook 1 pound of noodles of your choice till done (we like Mostaccioli). Drain, rinse with cool water. Put in fridge until ready to add to the salad.
Second step: Make the dressing
Heather's Zesty Italian Dressing (adjust it as you like)
In a Mason jar with a lid, add:
1/2 cup vinegar of your choice, less if you don't like it very tangy (I do 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and 1-2 tablespoons of my neighbor's homemade Chive Blossom vinegar made with white vinegar or white wine vinegar, I can't tell which one)
1 teaspoon salt
scant 1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon or so garlic powder (or chop up a couple cloves of fresh garlic)
2 teaspoons or so of dried diced onion (or chop up some fresh onion or use about 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder)
about 1/2 Tablespoon dried oregano (I crumble about a tablespoonful of homegrown dried whole-leaf Greek oregano into the dressing)
(I'm thinking of adding some lemon thyme, but I haven't tried it yet. But it sounds good.)
3-4 Tablespoons water
a few turns of the peppermill (or a small sprinkle of ground pepper, about an 1/8 teaspoon)
1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (I use the organic one from Costco)
Cap it and give it a little swirl to get the spices mixed. Then let it sit until the salad it ready.
Third Step: Assemble the salad (be creative here with whatever veggies you like):
We add sliced tomatoes, sliced red or yellow or orange peppers (don't use green, they are immature and lack flavor), and sliced cucumbers. Then I slice up an 8 oz. package of Smoked Turkey lunchmeat and throw it in. Add the cooled pasta. Shake the dressing vigorously until it's blended well and then pour all over the salad. After dishing it out into bowls, top with croutons and shredded cheddar cheese. It's great all by itself or with some buttered bread on the side.
There! Dinner is light and fresh and all done without ever having to turn on the oven!