Saturday, February 24, 2007

Rachel's Spicy Pasta Salad

My sister sent me this recipe more than a year ago, and then made it for us on her trip here for our wedding in September of 2005, (which was potluck and the best wedding food we've ever had). The salad is really good and very easy, and the leftovers were fantastic. It was great to be able to munch on in the post-wedding, wrapping paper strewn, chaos. The salad is flavorful and, as she mentions below, easy to customize. I think it would be fine without chicken, as well.

My sister, who lives in Flagstaff, is a fabulous cook. I think we both inherited the cooking gene from our mother, who always seems to have loved cooking, although what she cooks has changed a lot over the years, to adjust to changing tastes (and a husband with cholesterol problems). The food of my childhood was often classic 70s food: homemade macaroni and cheese (which I hated), spaghetti with meat sauce (ditto), turkey tetrazzini (ditto-I was a picky child. Love 'em all now)-side dishes of canned pears on a lettuce leaf topped with grated cheese. But we also ate things like homemade wontons and chile rellenos and Grecian chicken. My mom, and Rachel and I, all love to bake. One shining childhood memory is of the night dinner was a bowl of meringue. I blame my childhood for my deep ingrained feeling that I haven't finished my evening meal if I don't get dessert at the end of it. Nutritionists who recommend treating yourself once or twice a week to a dessert make me laugh.

And back to my sister's salad! Thanks for this, Rae.

Spicy Pasta Salad
1 ½ tablespoons curry powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 ¼ cups light Miracle Whip
1 pound gnocchi shaped pasta
8 oz. sugar snap peas
1 mango, peeled and cubed
1/3 cup honey-roasted sliced almonds

I made a few substitutions – chicken breasts instead of thighs; pasta
shells; a little more of all the spices, especially cayenne; and on one
occasion used a combo of regular mayo and miracle whip, as well as
sweetened lime juice – they were all fantastic.

1. Combine curry powder, cayenne, cinnamon, and salt. Sprinkle 1 tsp. of
the mixed spices on one side of chicken. Broil 6 inches from heat for 8
minutes; turn and broil another 8 minutes or until thermometer reads 180
degrees. Remove, let cool, cut into bite size pieces.
2. Stir remaining mixed spices and 1 tbsp. of the lime juice into salad
dressing. Refrigerate.
3. Bring large pot of salted water to boiling; cook pasta until tender
but still firm. Add peas during last minute of cooking. Drain and rinse
with cool running water.
4. Toss mango with remaining lime juice. Place in serving bowl with
pasta, peas, and chicken. Toss with salad dressing. Refrigerate. Top
each serving with almonds.

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