I’m just entering into the nutty-crazy-busy season at work – in fact, last week, I sat down and mapped out all the things that are coming up between now and early October and all I can say is YOWZA!  It’s going to be a busy few months!

So, I have a feeling that you’re going to be seeing a lot of two things in the coming weeks:  either fast and furious meals that you can make mid-week or meals that you can cook ahead on the weekend.

Or, as in today’s recipe, helpful tips for make a good dinner quickly.  Today’s tip:  a non-stick wok is your workday friend. It’s a great way too quickly cook meat or vegetables in a hurry.

This week, I had a mad hankering for the taste of the Med, particularly the flavors in a good pasta puttanesca – yummy olives, sunny peppers, juicy tomatoes and salty-like-the-sea capers.  But, instead of having a hot pasta sauce, I decided to break it down into its components and serve it as a pasta salad – perfect for an easy summer dinner!

Deconstructed Pasta Puttanesca Salad

  • 1/2 lb fusilli pasta
  • 1 punnet cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 yellow pepper, trimmed, seeded and sliced lengthwise into thin strips
  • 1/2 red onion (halved lengthwise), sliced into 1/4″ slices
  • 2 Tbsp capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup calamata olives, pitted and halved
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, crumbled
  • 1 cup basil or flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli paste (red pepper flakes in olive oil)
  • Drizzle of garlic oil
  • Olive oil
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional – 2 chicken breasts (sliced thinly) or mushrooms, halved

Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water.  While that’s boiling, heat a non-stick wok on high to lightly cook the onions and peppers – that makes them so much nicer and brings out their sweetness than if you leave them raw.  Drizzle a little peanut or vegetable oil to cook them – they’ll only need 3-4 minutes, total – you don’t want them mushy, you want them somewhere between raw and totally soft.  If you’re adding some mushrooms (I just happened to have a half-dozen that needed a home), quickly cook those in the wok afterwards.  Continue to add the ingredients into the bowl as you go.  When the pasta is done, drain it in a colander, then drizzle and toss with a little garlic oil – this adds a touch of garlic flavor while keeping the pasta from sticking at the same time.  Don’t use too much – you just want to lightly coat the pasta, not make it oily.  Toss the hot pasta onto the remaining salad ingredients and drizzle with the regular olive oil and lemon juice.  Toss thoroughly and taste for seasoning – be sure to wait until this stage though – the capers and olives will give it plenty of saltiness, so you’ll need to add less than you think.