Often when I find myself in a cooking rut, I think about my favorite dishes and try to present those flavor combinations in a different way. At first glance, I recognize that this advice seems like a recipe for creating the types of dishes that dominated my Midwestern church potlucks of my youth — hamburger soup, chili mac, chicken pot pie hand pies —but it has led me (and other cooks) in really interesting directions.
An Epicurious recipe that has been in heavy rotation in my house recently is this Pantry Pasta with Garlic, Anchovies, and Parmesan, which, if you think about it, is really just all the best bits of Caesar salad in pasta form. One of my favorite brunch recipes comes from Chicago's Tweet; it's a stack of cornmeal cakes topped with avocado slices, an over-easy and crumbled chorizo that is a gorgeous mash-up of arepas and flapjacks.
And, as we're heading into warmer weather, I've been playing around with variations of pasta salad, one of my favorite summer lunches. The other day, I had all the makings of a delicious bagel sandwich — smoked salmon, some fresh dill, sweet red onion — but no bagels.
At that point, hunger took over. I grabbed a box of rigatoni and poured it in some boiling, salted water. While it cooked, I surveyed what else I had in the refrigerator. Instead of reaching for cream cheese, I tossed a few scoops of whole-fat Greek yogurt in the food processor along with the dill and a healthy pinch of salt, a move that was inspired by this delectable lamb pasta recipe by Andy Barraghani.
I blitzed it until it was smooth and completely cohesive, then set aside.
I flaked the smoked salmon into bite-sized chunks and minced the red onion. Once the pasta had been drained and cooled completely, I folded it into the dill-yogurt sauce, topped it with the salmon and minced red onion, and gave everything a good toss. I scrounged through my pantry until I found my go-to Everything But the Bagel seasoning and used it to garnish the pasta salad.
Not to pat myself on the back, but it was absolutely amazing. It's light enough to dole out as a side, but it also has enough flavorful contrast to work as lunch. If you wanted to riff based on what's in your refrigerator — a squeeze of lemon, a smattering of scallions or chives, diced tomato, capers — that would be fun, too.
Recipe: Smoked salmon and dill pasta salad
- 1 pound of pasta of your choice (I like rigatoni, rotini or shells)
- ¾ cup of whole-fat Greek yogurt
- 4 to 6 tablespoons of fresh dill, depending on your taste (#teammoredill)
- 8 ounces of smoked salmon, flaked into bite-sized pieces
- ¼ red onion, minced
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional: Everything But the Bagel seasoning, scallions, capers
Cook your pasta according to package directions, then drain and set aside to cool.
In a small blender or food processor, combine the Greek yogurt and fresh dill. Blend until completely smooth and salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled pasta, dill sauce, smoked salmon and minced red pepper. Toss until the pasta is fully coated with the sauce.
Serve cool or at room temperature.
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