Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Southwestern Style Pasta Salad

Cilantro(coriander leaves) has always been one of my favorite herbs. The fragrance and flavor it adds to food is just incomparable, and I use this herb extensively in my daily cooking to add flavor.In a general sense I always believed that cilantro like all other green leafy herbs and vegetables must have some good in them, but I never really looked it up to confirm what those health benefits could be......

So I was pleasantly surprised when I came across an article in a recent Health magazine issue that explained exactly how healthy cilantro really is.......Did you know.... that cilantro is said to aid digestion and prevent nausea. It also is said to contain essential oils in it that kill bacteria like e-coli making food safer. After reading that article I went online to check and found that in addition to these, cilantro has been credited with a host of other health benefits, everything from having anti inflammatory properties, to help in reducing LDL cholesterol (the bad kind),to being a good anti oxidant and is also said to help stimulate the endocrine glands. Who would have thought that cilantro could be this beneficial and have such an important role to play in our diet.......

I definitely did not....and now that I do, I reach for the cilantro in my herb tray with an added sense of enthusiasm and use it wherever I can. Like in this southwestern style pasta salad that I first tasted at a restaurant. I loved it and thought it would be great to try making this at home. In addition to being very colorful and flavorful, this salad is also very hearty and filling.

Southwesternpastasalad edited

Click here for a printable view of this recipe
Ingredients and Method to make Southwestern style Pasta Salad

1/2 cup dry red kidney beans soaked for 6 to 8 hours with a pinch of soda (soda is optional)
1/2 cup dry black beans soaked for 6 to 8 hours with a pinch of soda (soda is optional)

3 1/2 cup dry any type of pasta like rotini or penne ( I used Barilla plus multi grain rotini)

1 large onion cut lengthwise
1 cup sweet corn kernels
1 green bell pepper cut fine
3 stalks celery cut fine (optional)
2 tbsp oil

For the dressing
1/3 cup olive oil (see notes)
1/4 cup lime juice/lemon juice (or to taste) (see notes)
salt to taste
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp chili powder (or to taste)

generous handful cilantro cut very fine for garnish

Drain the water the beans were soaked in, fill with fresh water and cook the beans seperately until soft either using the stove top or pressure cooker. Keep the cooked beans aside.

Cook dry pasta as per the instructions given in the packet, remove from heat, drain and keep aside.

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan, add onions and saute until transparent.

Then add celery and sweet corn and saute until the sweet corn is softer and cooked. Remove from heat.

In a small bowl, add oil, spices, salt and lime juice and mix well.

Add cooked pasta to the onions,celery and corn and mix well. Add finely cut bell pepper to it and mix well. Now drizzle the oil + lime+ spices mixture on it and mix well.

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Garnish with cilantro.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Serves approximately 4

Preferably when cooking the beans, add just enough water to cook it. I fill my container containing beans with water upto 1/4 of an inch above the beans and pressure cook it, that works out fine for me. In case you use the stove top keep adding water as required while cooking the beans. In case there are a few teaspoons of water remaining you can use it as is in the salad. In case there is a lot more water than that, then drain the water before adding beans to the salad.

If you use store bought lime or lemon juice you may need a little more, if you use fresh lemon/lime then a couple of tbsp may be sufficient.

Update: When I made this subsequently I started using only about 2 to 3 tbsp olive oil instead of 1/3 cup for the dressing and still think the salad tastes very good.

Suggested variance:
Reduce chili powder and instead saute 1 jalapeno cut fine along with the onions and add to the salad

This salad is off to the Healthy Inspirations Salad Event going on at this site and to Sowmya's Cooking with Pasta Event 

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