Pickled veggie pasta salad

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

This is my platonic ideal of pasta salad: Tangy, bright, and crunchy, but also a little creamy and, frankly, oily. You can’t help but smell a smoky grill, hear kids laughing, and feel the sun in your face with this salad on your plate.

Just the pasta, please.

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies
Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

So, pasta salad is often an underwhelming affair. It feels necessary at BBQs and is easy to produce in huge quantities. And sans eggs or mayo, it keeps in the sun for hours without risking a side of salmonella. But what a waste when it’s totally boring!

This recipe uses a huge quantity of quick-pickled seasonal vegetables and aromatics, which takes a little pre-planning, but is very worth it. My kid also happens to love pickles, which is a pretty good way to get him to eat veggies. And when you do the pickling, you control the salt, sugar, and other junk that enters the mix.

The recipe I’ve developed here is best when left overnight, but the veggies can be eaten after about 3 hours and definitely taste pickled. Leaving them overnight helps the garlic to mellow, which can be considered a kindness to your guests, no? But also feel free to omit the garlic if you must.

And while I haven’t included anything but the pasta, dressing, and veggies in this recipe, you can customize this dish in whatever way suits your family. I make this for the three of us with mozzarella balls or feta. I’ve also thought about searing some salmon and flaking it in there or just opening a can of tuna and dumping that in. Also, the pickled veggies remind me of gardiniera, so I’m sure a salami or other Italian cured meat would be amazing in there. Experiment! Go crazy!

A couple of notes:

  • I opted for scallions here because, though I LOVE a pickled red onion, they turn the pickling liquid (and everything else that’s being soaked) a bit pink.

  • I also used fresh corn because it’s in season and is so sweet and perfect right off of the cob that I can’t imagine not using it. But I’m sure frozen would do the trick too.

  • I give a range of oil and a range of pasta to use here. I used a fancy pasta, which had about 14 oz of dry noodles in the bag, but feel free to use a whole pound. Obviously, the more pasta you use, the less prominent the veggies will be and the more sauce you’ll need and vice versa.

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

Pickled veggie pasta salad

Active time: About 30 minutes, mostly spent chopping and mixing
Total time: Anywhere from 3 hours, 15 minutes to 1 week, depending on how much you let the pickles sit
Yield: About 9-10 cups of salad

¾ cup white vinegar
1 ½ Tbsp sugar
¾ tsp salt
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
½ large bunch scallions (about 4-5 large), trimmed and roughly chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved  
½ large orange bell pepper, roughly chopped
2-3 large ears corn, with kernels removed (or about 1½-2 cups)
12-16 oz dried pasta (depending on the ratio of vegetables to pasta that you prefer)
1/2- 3/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp fresh pepper
½ tsp dried or 1 tsp fresh oregano, well minced if using fresh
¼- ½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn

For the pickled vegetables:
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, sugar, and salt and stir until the sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes. (You won’t hear any more crunching on the bottom of the container.)

In a large container with a tight fitting lid, add the smashed garlic, chopped scallions, and chopped vegetables. Pour in the vinegar mixture, seal the container, and shake a few times.

Place in the refrigerator and leave for 3 hours or up to 1 week.

For the salad:
Cook your pasta according to package directions in well salted water.

While your pasta cooks, combine the oil, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and oregano in a small container.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and add it to a very large bowl. Add half of the olive oil mixture and stir well.

With a large fork or slotted spoon, remove the vegetables from the pickling liquid, transferring as little of the brine as possible (though don’t go crazy). Set aside the garlic cloves and mince the pickled cloves. Add everything to the pasta and stir well.

Add more of the olive oil mixture to taste until you feel that the pasta salad is wet enough.

Mix in and top with the torn basil before serving.

Pickled pasta salad | Me & The Moose. This huge pickled pasta salad is perfect for a crowd because it features plenty of salt, fat, and acid and can hang out in the heat for a long time without going bad. Make it for a party or eat it throughout the week. Or just make the quick pickled veggies and snack on those! #meandthemoose #pastasalad #BBQrecipes #batchcooking #vegan #veganrecipes #pickles #pickledveggies

Chicken meatball and cauliflower rice banh mi bowl

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So, this is technically a recipe for a banh mi bowl, but the components can be customized in zillions of ways. The chicken meatballs can go in any direction, as can the cauliflower rice.

But first, banh mi. It's technically a Vietnamese sandwich with pickled carrots and daikon radishes, cucumbers, cilantro, a spicy mayonnaise, some sort of pate or liverwurst, and another cooked meat. Availability of great Banh mi is the one thing I miss about living in Brooklyn where we used to order these sandwiches at least once a week. That's also possibly why I gained a lot of weight when we lived there.

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Now when a craving strikes, I like to incorporate banh mi flavors in a cauliflower rice bowl. 

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I have mixed feelings about carb and starch substitutes. Unless whatever you're eating with the cauliflower rice is really flavorful, I don't think it passes for regular rice. However, while not really rice, I love this cauliflower on its own merits. It's really simple: sauteed onions, garlic, and salt are all you need. M even eats it and he is a traditional rice devotee.

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Now, the meatballs. I have experimented A LOT with chicken meatballs. As a perfectionist, I really really want them to be round. I've gone down the rabbit hole of meatball-making tips and so far, none of them have been entirely successful. I've tried adding more and less filler, more and less liquid, more and less fat, cooking directly in a sauce, roasting, sauteing, and chilling in various ways. The most successful tip I can offer from my trials and tribulations is that making them very very small is the key to quick cooking and maintaining a round shape. So if you care about roundness in your meatballs, use 1 teaspoon or less per ball.

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A couple of other notes:
- I've found that cheese is a better agent for adding moisture than milk because it doesn't make the mixture too slack. But while there is cheese in these balls, they don't taste cheesy at all, which makes the flavor more adaptable.
- I encourage you not to overcook these. Since there isn't a lot of fat or filler in these balls, they can dry out if left on the heat for too long. Using a meat thermometer is your best bet for cooking things fully, but not overdoing it.
-Speaking of cooking, I equally like roasting and sauteing these balls. I don't find that it makes a difference in the taste, texture, or shape of the final product. However, it's currently summer here on the east coast of the USA and hot as hell, so I don't always have it in me to turn on the oven. Either cooking method is great, so do what feels best (and least sweaty) for you.

 

Chicken meatball and cauliflower rice banh mi bowl 

Chicken meatballs
1 lb ground chicken
¾ cup panko
¼ cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp full-fat ricotta (optional, as it may make the meatballs flatten slightly, but adds more moisture)
1 egg
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp kosher salt
pepper to taste

If roasting, preheat the oven to 425.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix minimally with a spoon, spatula, or your hands, just until the ingredients are incorporated.

If sautéing the meatballs, add 1 Tablespoon of olive oil to a large pan and heat over a medium-low flame. 

Using wet hands, scoop out between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon of the chicken mixture and roll into a ball. Add to a baking dish or the hot pan.   

If sauteing: Over medium-high flame, brown on one side and then turn the meatballs over to brown on the other side (about 2-4 minutes per side, depending on the size of your meatballs). Turn the flame to low and cover the pan. Cook until a thermometer inserted reaches 165 degrees or the meatballs are firm when you press on them and no pink remains in the middle, about 4-8 more minutes, depending on size.

If roasting: Cook for 8-10 minutes (again, the larger your meatballs, the longer they’ll need to cook) and check the meatballs (again, they’re done when the internal temperature reaches 165 or the balls are firm and no pink remains in the center).

Yield: 54 mini meatballs (1 tsp) or 24 small meatballs (1 Tbsp)

 

Cauliflower rice
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ small onion, chopped (a heaping ½ cup)
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 lb cauliflower rice (either pre-riced or use a 1 lb [usually a small] head of cauliflower and chop in a food processor)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil over a medium-low flame. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Add the cauliflower rice and sauté for 5 minutes. Reduce the flame to low, cover, and cook for 13-15 minutes or until you’ve reached your desired consistency. I like a little bit of crunch to the rice, so I prefer to cook for slightly less time.

Yield: 4 cups

 

Pickled carrots and daikon radish
Adapted from The Banh Mi Handbook
1 medium daikon (about 1 lb)
3 large carrots (about 1 lb)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
1 cup warm water

Chop your vegetables into thin sticks and add to a large container.

In a separate large liquid measuring cup, add the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt. Mix with a whisk and microwave on high for 30 seconds and whisk again. Repeat as needed, microwaving for 10-15 seconds at a time, to dissolve the sugar.

Pour over the chopped vegetables and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to one month.


For the rice bowls:
Meatballs (see recipe)
Cauliflower rice (see recipe)
Pickled vegetables (see recipe)
Fresh cilantro, torn from the bunch
Cucumber, sliced
Scallions, sliced
Sriracha or other hot sauce
Mayonnaise (optional)

To assemble the bowl, use as much or as little of each ingredient as you like. We usually get about two adult-sized portions and one kid-sized portion from the cauliflower rice with meatballs and pickles left over. If your family is larger, increase the rice as needed and adjust cooking times. Your onions and garlic may need another minute each and the overall cooking time for the cauliflower may be slightly longer as well (but test often after the above instructed 15 minutes to avoid overcooking).

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