The question of what to have for lunch is always present. Often you can’t be bothered with turning on the stove. You only crave for something cold you can have straight from the fridge, or at least something that you can eat at room temperature.

However, the all mighty green salad, no matter how you dress it up, well…it is still a green salad. Something that, let’s be honest, might fill your belly but sometimes not your soul.

Here is where pasta salads come in. We are still not sure if the word salad is ideal for these types of dishes. Maybe the word salad is used because pasta salads are consumed cold. Maybe it’s used because pasta salads are the lighter cousins of pasta. No one knows really. But one thing is certain. Pasta salads are the way to kick off the series of foods we have for lunch. Yes, pasta salads lie between pasta and salad. The recipe below it is not a warm bowl of penne with tomato sauce. It is not a gem lettuce and avocado salad. It’s something in between. And this is exactly what makes it even more interesting. This recipe is inspired by the Greek chef Chrysanthos Karamolegos, who originally created this combination of flavours.

And we’re making our own mayonnaise for this one, give it a try!

Feeds 4 for lunch

2 spring onions
5 tbsp red wine vinegar
1tbsp sugar
½ cucumber
½ pack zea penne (read more on zea pasta https://oliveology.co.uk/asparagus-are-in/)
1 gem lettuce
1 avocado
5 leaves basil
3 tbsp mayonnaise
3tbsp olive oil
salt
pepper

Finely chop the spring onions. In a bowl mix the red wine vinegar with the sugar, until sugar resolves. Add the spring onions and let them marinate until you prepare everything else. This will give them a soft sweetness and acidity.

Boil your pasta in salted water. Once al dente, strain and rinse under cold water. Cut the cucumber in small pieces (you can choose between half moons, cubes, whatever you prefer really). Cut the avocado in cubes. Finely shred the lettuce and basil leaves.

Mix the mayonnaise and olive oil, adding water to dilute the mixture until you have a liquidy sauce.

Toss together the pasta, cucumber, avocado, lettuce, spring onions (removed from sugar/vinegar mixture), basil, dressing. You can use the leftover sugar/vinegar mixture if you feel more acidity is needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or cold if you prefer.

by Nafsika


St George’s day here in the UK marks the beginning of the asparagus season. Don’t you just love it when a season for an ingredient “officially” begins? We love seasonal food as you know. And we also love asparagus. They are after all what makes us feel like we are properly into spring.

Obviously there are many things one can do with this green spring vegetable.

But it so happens that we just received from Greece the most amazing ingredient to pair with asparagus.

Spaghetti made with emmer wheat, or as we call it in Greece, zea. The naming of zea links to the idea of “giving life”. So that should tell you something. It is also one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. This ancient grain is high in fiber and has a low GI. But besides being good for your body, it is also very tasty. Think beyond what you would expect from your average pasta. Long strings of delicate pasta with a nutty, warm flavour. Is there anything better? Well yes! A zingy pairing with asparagus.

By the way, this pasta will go beautifully with a mushroom sauce or a ragu. But that’s for another blog post.

Serves four

1 pack of Emmer wheat spaghetti
1 large bunch of asparagus
1 large lemon, both juice and zest
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Grated graviera  or parmesan cheese (optional)

Place your pasta in a large pot with boiling salted water. As the pasta is boiling, place a small colander on top of your pot and steam your asparagus. If you prefer, you can steam them separately or blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water. Set asparagus aside and once you are able to handle them, cut in bite size pieces. Or leave whole if you prefer.

When the pasta is al dente drain. Beware, artisan pasta cooks much faster than store-bought.

In a large bowl, place your pasta, asparagus, lemon juice and zest and drizzle with plenty of olive oil. Add some grated graviera cheese (or parmesan) if using. Season with salt and pepper and stir until everything is well combined. Taste and add more lemon juice or salt if needed.

Serve warm. But this specific pasta dish is actually delicious served cold. Leftovers for lunch anyone?