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 Penne). Drain, rinse with cool water. Put in fridge until ready to add to the salad.
Heather's Zesty Italian Dressing (adjust it as you like)
In a Mason jar with a lid, add:
1/2 cup (7-8 Tablespoons) of your choice vinegar, less if you don't like it very tangy (I do 5-6 tablespoons red wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons of my neighbor's homemade Chive Blossom vinegar made with white vinegar.)
1 teaspoon salt
scant 1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (or chop up a couple cloves of fresh garlic)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder (or 1 teaspoon or so of dried diced onion or chop up some fresh onion)
1/2 - 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, adjust for your taste (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 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 is ready.
(I keep it for up to a week in the fridge. Olive oil will harden slightly, so leave it on the counter a little while before using or set it into a small dish filled with hot water to melt it quicker.)
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), sliced cucumbers, and lettuce, kale, or spinach (or your choice of greens). (You could also add fresh onion if you want.)
Then I slice up an 8 oz. package of high-quality, sliced Smoked Turkey lunchmeat and throw it in. But it's also great without the turkey. (You could also add chopped hard-boiled eggs.)
Add the cooled pasta. Shake the dressing vigorously until it's well blended 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! And if you have it with a cold glass of lemonade or iced tea ... Awww, yeaahhh!