What's your favourite Summertime thing?
It's been a hot one this year with record breaking temperatures, some electrifying storms and a trickle of rain here and there, a good mix to keep us all in Summertime mode. A special mention must go to our neighbours in Penrith for being quite possibly the hottest place on EARTH (47.3 deg) last Sunday the 7th Jan, according to Weatherzone.
With that being said, I still managed to head out on that Sunday evening with some of the family to catch a 20/20 Big Bash Cricket Game and even managed to join the Buckethead brigade without actually having to eat KFC (phew!). Although my husband will tell you I'm a non-believer when it comes to cricket, I do love turning on the ABC radio broadcast of the game (yeah yeah I know it's not sounding cool) while I'm driving around in the car, windows down, wind in my hair, trying not to get my thongs caught in the pedals between gear changes. But it's that vacant kind of sound of a few commentary voices talking in-between balls being bowled that shouts 'Summer' to me.
Another of our Summer 'things' is sitting out in our backyard in the twilight hours with a beer in hand while we water our veggie patch and discuss/solve the problems of the world. The cicadas this year have been in full song, so it's often a nice time to just sit and hang out, or practice our sign language! Our poly tunnel is overflowing with a giant, rogue pumpkin which we can almost watch grow in this weather. The rate it's going we'll be able to feed the whole neighbourhood soon.
Together with our poly tunnel adventures, it's been the first year we have been able to harvest nectarines from our tree. All be it a bit small and dodgy looking, they (the 6 that we have been able to salvage before the Bower Bird pecked through the netting grrrrr) have tasted simply delicious! And here I was prepping up for a huge nectarine chutney season, maybe next year.
What about those Summers when you went to a bbq and someone turned up with the store bought Pasta Salad and you ate it directly from it's fancy flip top plastic container. Yes it still happens I'm sure. My recollection was of some sort of Thousand Island dressing swished around in there with some carrot, corn and chunky red capsicum stirred through. In my younger years I used to chomp that down at a rate on knots.
Summer Chicken, Prosciutto and Zucchini Pasta Salad
To take you back (or update your current) to a refreshed classic, I thought I would give one a go and I'm pleased to say, it's an absolute keeper! It's nice and cool for a steamy summer night, surprisingly not too heavy, it's pretty quick to throw together and, it transports well (great picnic food!). You can easily change it up to however you please by swapping out some of the ingredients and I've included some ideas below so you can keep those brains of your's, still in their Summertime haze!
250g dried pasta of your choice (see tips below)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 chicken thigh fillets, chopped into 1.5cm pieces
50g (about 4 slices) prosciutto, roughly torn
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 medium zucchini, grated
125g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced into strips
170g tub greek yoghurt
3 tbsp mayonaise
80g (1 cup) parmesan, finely grated, plus extra to serve
1 big handful rocket
salt and cracked pepper
Cook pasta in a large sauce pan of salted boiling water according to instructions on packet (it needs to be cooked to al dente which is usually around 8 minutes). Drain and run under cold water carefully moving pasta around under the water until it's cold. Set aside.
Heat oil in a frypan and add chicken and prosciutto and cook for 3 minutes. Add garlic and continue to cook, stirring, until chicken is golden and cooked through, and the prosciutto is crispy. Set aside to cool.
Add cooled cooked pasta to a large bowl and add zucchini, sun-dried tomatoes, yoghurt, mayonnaise, parmesan and carefully mix to combine all ingredients well. Add cooled chicken mixture and season to taste.
Just before serving, toss through the rocket and top with extra parmesan and cracked pepper.
Serves 2, being quite generous
Other variations you might like to try
An even QUICKER version. Bbq chicken shredded and chopped ham, no cooking if these required. Just crush your garlic (reduce the cloves to one) and mix it into the yoghurt before adding to the pasta. Continue as above and for a bit of extra freshness, a handful of some roughly chopped parsley would be nice too.
Roasted veg. Leave out the chicken, prosciutto and sun-dried tomatoes and simply roast your garlic in their skin and squeeze it out once roasted and cooled, directly into the pasta and add any roasted veg you like. I love to roast cauliflower, brussel sprouts, pumpkin and zucchini, cut to similar sizes, tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for about 30mins at 180 deg or until they start to turn golden. Carefully mix the veg with the pasta as the veg will tend to break up a little (especially if you use pumpkin). Add the juice and zest of one lemon at the end, and even a handful of currants if you like, as you add the fresh rocket.
Mediterranean. Slice a chorizo lengthwise and place it on a baking tray with a punnet of cherry tomatoes which have been tossed in some olive oil. Roast at 180 deg for around 25mins or until tomatoes have just started to blister. Roughly chop chorizo and set aside with tomatoes until cool. If you like, swap out the yoghurt and mayo for ricotta, add some of your favourite olives, throw in a handful of roughly chopped fresh basil, some baby capers and the juice and zest of a lemon into the mix, and finish with the rocket to freshen it up. Even a crumble of feta would work well in this one and if you prefer, you can leave the tomatoes fresh and just slice them in half before adding.
So many options!
Just to try something different, I used a dried Rice & Corn based pasta from Orgran which was free of Dairy, Gluten, Egg, GMO, Nut, MSG, Soy, Wheat and Yeast - yes all of that missing and it tasted really good. Found it in the 'healthy' section of my local supermarket.
Use a style of pasta which your dressing can wrap itself around, like Tortelli (as I used), shells, spirals etc. Bursts of flavour in each mouthful.
Cook your pasta to al dente stage (cooked so as to be still firm when bitten) so it will hold together and not break apart when you are mixing it together.
Make it a day ahead and add your rocket just before serving.
LOVE YOUR FOOD MOMENTS... ENYOY!