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Pasta Salad with Salmon, Cabbage, and Carrots

July 22, 2010

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Last week, I broke out the grill for the first time in a year and cooked up some lovely salmon fillets. Being as I was only making dinner for one, I ended up with more grilled salmon than I could eat in one night, and the next day I used the rest to put together a huge bowl of this lovely pasta salad. Well, it ended up being more pasta salad than I could eat in one night, and I had pasta salad to last me many days. And I got a little sick of it after it became my fourth lunch in a row, so I might recommend that if you make this pasta salad, you have more than one person around to eat it. Because I do think you should make this pasta salad. It’s pasta salad season, after all, and this one is unique.

I knew I wanted to turn the salmon into pasta salad, but I wasn’t sure what kind I wanted. I had a large head of cabbage from my CSA in the refrigerator, as well as some cute little baby carrots. I did have a moment of doubt about the cabbage, but in the end, it added an excellent crunch to the relative softness of pasta and salmon. And the salmon itself was nice and smoky from the grill. Olive and roasted red peppers gave it a nice salty balance. I made a tangy dressing with plain yogurt and fresh herbs, and it all came together quite nicely.

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I used whole wheat penne because it’s what I had, and while it was fine (and added extra fiber!) it competed a bit more than it had to with the other flavors. Regular penne might be better, though admittedly, a bit less healthy. And this is a pretty darned healthy pasta salad, as far as that goes. There’s only a small amount of mayonnaise in the dressing, and you could probably leave it out altogether, if you wanted.

Pasta Salad with Salmon, Cabbage, and Carrots

  • 2-3 cup penne or other pasta of your choice
  • about 8 ounces of grilled or broiled salmon
  • 1/2 a medium head of cabbage (any kind you prefer)
  • 2 medium carrots (or about 5 baby carrots)
  • a good handful of chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 chopped roasted red pepper
  • a good handful of chopped parsley

For the dressing

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I prefer whole fat)
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 generous pinch of salt
  • 1 generous pinch of dried or fresh dill
  • pepper to taste

Like most pasta salad recipes, this is pretty simple. Cook the pasta in boiling water until it’s al dente, then rinse it under cool water until it’s no longer steaming hot. Put it in a large bowl. Flake the salmon, and chop all the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Mix all the vegetables and the salmon into the bowl with the pasta, then add the dressing and stir until it coats everything. As for the dressing, it’s pretty simple, too. Just put all the ingredients into a jar with a lid, and shake it well until it’s emulsified.

This is the kind of summer cooking I love. Very little stove time is involved, very few dishes need to be washed, and there are no complicated steps or processes involved. The vegetables are wonderfully crunchy and refreshing. I cooked the salmon ahead of time, so it was cold from being in the refrigerator, but I’m sure it would be fine if it was fresh off the grill. In fact, the slightly warm pasta made this even more interesting the first night.

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I think what I liked the most about this pasta salad was that it’s slightly different from your standard mayonnaise-y pasta salad (which I also love!). This would be a good thing to bring to a picnic or potluck this summer, especially in the Northwest, where the salmon is so fresh and plentiful. You could probably use whatever vegetables you have on hand and it would be equally delicious, but I wouldn’t leave out the olives and roasted red peppers. They really added a good balance to the overall dish.

I finally finished up this huge bowl of pasta salad on Saturday afternoon, which was a perfect Walla Walla afternoon: not too hot, with a nice breeze to keep the air moving. I spent a good portion of it doing yard work, which is quickly becoming my least favorite way to spend Saturday (I work so hard and it doesn’t appear to make any difference!). The only good part about yard work are these beautiful roses:

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A big bowl of refreshing pasta salad and freshly picked roses from my yard: pretty good indicators that summer is here in Walla Walla. And it’s not half bad.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 22, 2010 11:49 am

    yummy! thank you so much for sharing this recipe. i really love this. its perfect!

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