Here we are, smack dab in the middle of June, and I’m looking out at gray skies. Why?! I don’t know about you, but dreary weather slows me down and sunshine motivates me to skip right along. At least I have a bowl full of summertime goodness in the fridge to tide me over for a while.
This salad concept came to me when I found an ear of corn in my vegetable drawer, a remnant of my cowboy caviar recipe. I whipped up a bold pesto made with fresh cilantro and parsley, toasted pepitas and a jalapeño, which adds extra freshness and a bit of kick.
Then I tossed in some sliced tomatoes, raw corn and black beans. Pasta salad for days! You can easily change up the flavors, and I’ve typed up some suggestions below.
If you’re sensitive to spice or find the idea of jalapeño in pesto to be downright strange (I think it’s lovely), you can skip it altogether. For less spice, be sure to remove all the membranes and seeds from the jalapeño. You might also taste the jalapeño beforehand to make sure you haven’t gotten an overpoweringly spicy pepper on your hands.
Feel free to change up the herbs in the pesto, too. I’m crazy for cilantro but basil would be great, too (or just double the parsley for parsley pesto). If you find the pesto to be too strongly flavored for you, try letting it rest for 30 minutes or mixing in some Parmesan to temper the flavor a notch.
I love the salty, creamy feta in this recipe, but for a dairy free/vegan version, replace it with avocado. You might need to add a bit more salt, to taste. Sun-dried tomatoes are a great add-in, if you have some. I like the dehydrated kind from Trader Joe’s, which are somehow still pliable enough to eat right out of the bag.
- ½ pound whole grain bow-tie pasta or rotini or penne
- 1 (14-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes (10 ounces), sliced into thin rounds
- 1 ear fresh corn, shucked (about ½ cup fresh corn kernels)
- ½ to ¾ cup crumbled feta or diced avocado
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh parsley
- 1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro or basil
- 1 to 2 medium jalapeños, roughly chopped (remove seeds and membranes for less heat), optional
- 1 medium lemon, juiced
- 1 medium garlic clove, roughly chopped
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) or slivered almonds
- ½ cup olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Before draining, reserve about a cup of cooking water. Drain and return to pot. Set aside.
- Toast the pepitas in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they are making little popping noises and turning lightly golden on the edges. Set aside to cool a bit.
- To make the pesto, combine the herbs, jalapeño, lemon, garlic and salt in a food processor. Pour in the pepitas. Pulse a few times and then run the machine while drizzling in the olive oil until the mixture is well blended, scraping down the bowl as necessary.
- Pour enough pesto into the pasta to lightly coat it once tossed (you might not quite need all of it). Add a small splash of pasta cooking water and toss well. Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl and add the drained black beans, sliced cherry tomatoes, fresh corn and feta or avocado. Stir until combined. This salad tastes best after it's had a chance to marinate for about 30 minutes, but you can serve it right away if need be.
Make it gluten free: Use gluten-free pasta.
Make it nut free: Be sure to use pepitas, which are seeds, rather than almonds or another nut in the pesto.
Storage suggestions: This recipe keeps well for several days in the refrigerator, covered. Leftovers are great served warm or chilled. If you want to change it up/stretch it out, add some fresh, leafy greens and a drizzle of lemony dressing.