In my estimation there is nothing better than a good pasta salad and nothing worse than a bad pasta salad. Until I met this pasta salad, I had never tasted one that I considered worth a darn. They had all seemed utterly flavorless to me, and frankly not worth the calories. (And darn it, if I am going to take in idle calories, i.e. pasta, the other ingredients better taste pretty bloomin’ good!) So, when I first tasted this salad, I knew I had met the pasta salad of my dreams.
It all started with a wedding in the bluebird capital of the world – Bickleton, Washington. This little eastern Washington town and surrounding area boast literally thousands of birdhouses purposely built to house their beloved bluebirds. And even though the town isn’t large enough to support a gas station, it does have the Bluebird tavern (opened in 1882) and a great little store/café. (Obviously their priorities are in the right place.) Bickleton is also the home of the state’s oldest rodeo. (This year’s 96th annual Pioneer Picnic and Rodeo will be held on the second week-end in June.) And featured every year at the picnic and rodeo is one of the west’s oldest carousels, a 1905 Herschell-Spillman. It is set up and used only on rodeo week-end. So if you want to take a spin (so-to speak), I would advise you to go on line (bickleton.org) and learn more about the event. But back to the wedding and the pasta salad recipe……..
It all started when Mr. C. was asked to play for a wedding. Since we worked with Dave the groom (a native of Bickleton), knew the bride-to-be (JoAnne) and were close friends with the bride’s sister (Mary), Mr. C. jumped at the chance. Then we found out that the wedding was being held in Bickleton. Bickleton? Where in the world of carmen sandiego is Bickleton we asked? As it was explained to us, it’s in eastern Washington near Goldendale. There you go! So to Bickleton we ventured.
As it turned out, our entire day to and from Bickleton was delightful. We got to experience a completely new to us area of our state. The wedding was beautiful, the music divine (of course), and the food at the reception, some of the best I have ever tasted. As it turned out, the reception food had been prepared by friends of the bride who were caterers. Not being the shy unassuming person that I depict myself to be on my blog, I marched right up to the head caterer and asked for the pasta salad recipe. She looked me up and down, determined that I probably wasn’t worthy (just the wife of the piano guy after all), and turned me down. Huh! So being the devious devil that I am, I asked my friend Mary to get it for me, which she did. Ha! And I have been making it ever since! And truly, it is absolutely delicious. (Nothing boring about this salad!) The combination of flavors is perfect, and with nary a drop of mayonnaise to be had, this salad is perfect for a picnic or potluck.
So whenever I hear Angela, one of our dearest friends, talk about her home town of Bickleton, I am always magically transported back to our first time in this delightful little town. And of course, in my remembrance I am always eating this wonderful pasta salad for the first time. But thankfully I can experience this flavor sensation any old time I want. So give this recipe a try. It’s easy to prepare, and best when made the day before. (I love salads that can and should be prepared ahead!)
In closing, I would like to raise a toast to small towns. Some of the nicest, most erudite people I know were either raised in a small town or currently live in one. Large towns are lovely too of course, but small, rural settings will always claim my heart. Cheers!
- 1 lb. fusilli or multi-colored spiral pasta cooked al dente, drained and cooled
- ¼ c. chopped red onion
- ½ c. drained and chopped sun dried tomatoes
- 1 c. pitted kalamata olives, sliced
- 4 c. thinly sliced fresh baby spinach leaves
- ¼ c. finely minced fresh parsley
- ½ c. extra virgin olive oil
- 3 T. red wine vinegar
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tsp. kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- ¾ to 1 lb. crumbled French feta cheese
In a large salad bowl combine the pasta, red onion, sun dried tomatoes, olives, spinach, and parsley. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. Pour dressing over pasta mixture and toss lightly. Add feta and gently toss until feta is well distributed. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve at room temperature.