Saturday, May 06, 2006

Pasta salad with avocado dressing in the Kitchen

Karla wrote to say that avocado's have gone on sale in her area and she's stocked up. These are fresh ones and she's wondering how long before they ripen? You can speed up the process a number of ways (I have an aunt who puts them in flour, I don't do that). But you should store them in a paper sack. It's summer and avocados will be on sale so with Karla's e-mail and Billie's asking for something simple and light, we'll do a pasta salad with avocado dressing.

There are many kinds of pasta salad and I think I love all of them. They can be made with meat or without. Shrimp, ham, chicken and scallops are among my favorite meat ingredients to put into a pasta salad. They are easy to make and even easier if you skip the meat.

This one is very simple and requires only boiling water for the cooking step.

You'll need:
8 ounces of small pasta shells
3 stalks of celery (cut into 1/2 inch slices)
2 medium tomatoes chopped
4 ounces of ham in 1/2 inch cubes (optional)

1 medium avocado, pitted, peeled
3/4 cup of mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of cider vinegar
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
dash of salt
dash of pepper

Boil water and cook the pasta as directed on the package. Drain the pasta.

While the pasta cools, you'll make the dressing. Cut the avocado in half and remove the seed in the middle. Scoop the avocado into a bowl. (Mike has his own way with avocados. He slices them in half, removes the seed, then peels off the skin, and dumps the two halves into a bowl.)
Using a fork, mash the avocado until it is smooth. Add mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper and then stir with fork until well blended.

Chop the celery and tomatoes. Using a large bowl, combine the celery, tomatoes, ham and pasta. Add the dressing and toss the salad lightly to mix the ingredients. ("Tossing" does not mean throwing it into the air. My daughter is reading over my shoulder and said I should note that. Think of tossing as a form of stirring, if you're confused. You're not stirring in a circle, you're lifting with the spoon and then going to the bottom of the bowl to lift again, in order to make sure the dressing is mixed with the salad.)

So that's it. You can now serve it or, if you'd prefer it chilled, you can put it into the fridge (cover it) and eat it in a half-hour or hour.

Summer's gearing up and, with the hotter days, many people look for lighter meals. This is both due to the fact that you don't want to spend a hot day standing over a hot stove and also because many people don't want a heavy meal during the summer heat. So summer can be the perfect time for salads (pasta and non-pasta ones). Fresh produce is also more plentiful in the summer as well.

The fiber in fruits and vegetables can help you lose and/or maintain your weight if that's a concern for you. In the dish above, you get tomatoes, celery and avocados. You can also add to it with your favorite fruit or vegetable. (Radishes are my mother's favorite and she's always sneaking them into any salad.)

The news of the week? Porter Goss announced Friday he was stepping down as director of the C.I.A. and C.I. and I were discussing the news that Michael Hayden would be his replacement. A scary thought. Last weekend, a number of us went to NYC for the rally and march against the war. At some point over the weekend, the figure for American troops who have died in Iraq hit 2400. Today, the total is 2417. It's being reported that a British helicopter was shot down in Basra and at least four British troops have died.

If you've been following the Iraqi snapshot that C.I.'s been doing at The Common Ills, Monday through Friday, you know that despite Bully Boy's nonsense, things are not getting better. Nor will they. The United States government launched an illegal war. That's not something you move "past." The war was illegal from the start and the occupation has no validity for Iraqis. Nor would it for us, if we were occupied. "Democracy" and "liberation" do not come by a foreign government occupying and controlling your country.

With Vietnam, we were told we were "winning" or soon to be. That nonsense is echoed by the current administration. Something's you do not "win" because you're not meant to. When you have to lie to achieve your goals (or attempt to achieve them), your goals themselves are in question.

I was very encouraged by the numbers in NYC last weekend. They indicate awareness but more is needed as well as more action and more participation. It was a bit of a comedown, to put it mildly, to return home and find that a number of people were saying that they'd heard things were getting better and the Iraqi government was on track.

An occupied territory does not have an independent government. What they do or do not do is dictated by the occupiers (the United States government) and that's grasped by the Iraqi people. Having entered into an illegal war, there is no "victory" to be had.

The only solution is to withdraw the troops. Not to do so is to demand more deaths (of troops and of Iraqis). That is as basic as 1+1=2 and no spin can will change the reality (although spin obviously does manage to confuse people).

It's easy to get frustrated and depressed when you notice some people around you who would rather follow anything except the news from Iraq. One thing that cheered me up this week was reading Rebecca's "goldie's (and marlene's) house party last weekend to end the war" which very much addresses the power that we have as individuals.

For a light take on current news, I recommend Wally's "THIS JUST IN! DOES CONDI HEAR BELLS?" (his mother and I spoke many time this week and both agreed that sometimes his humorous take on the news provides the only "daily laughter"). I also enjoyed Mike's "Law and Disorder and lots of other stuff" and Cedric's "Bully Boy and check out Annette Rubenstein on Law and Disorder." Betty's "Thomas Friedman's Trash Dump Psuedo Politics" is funny and I'm so tempted to ask her if I've guessed one of the twists of Betinna's life? (I think I've figured out how Betinna ended up with Thomas Friedman.) But I especially want to recommend, dropping back to April 19th, "My pacificism isn't a cloak I wear some days and others put on war drag" which was a strong and, I think, beautiful post by Elaine. I think she says many things that a lot of us have been thinking. (And I see that now it's being addressed outside of the community.) Having demonstrated in Afghanistan and Iraq that he's incapable of allowing "freedom" or even ensuring "safety," I'm very bothered by the cries of some to turn the events in Darfur over to the Bully Boy's hands.

I have to wonder how closely those calling for that have followed the news in the last few years?
I think some people are fooling themselves and willfully dropping out from reality. Ava and C.I.'s "TV Review: Without a Point" is a wonderful review but I especially enjoyed the conclusion of the review:

They play it just as safe when they turn to a Jerry Bruckheimer show that offers what passes for flash and no meat. Near the end of Dostoyevsky's The Idiot, Mrs. Yepanchin says, "We've had enough of being carried away by our enthusiasms. It's high time we grew sensible." Watching the Bruckmeister's various franchises, we couldn't agree more.

Sunday morning, they told me that they hoped I would enjoy the review ("in some manner" -- they are very down on their reviews, wrongly so) and I was wondering about that? Others explained that they'd worked in something just for me. Dostoyevsky is one of my favorite authors and The Idiot is one of my favorite novels. So when I read the review Sunday evening,
I was very happy to come across that quote. One that I agree with and think we should all heed.