Southwest Pasta Salad & Balsamic Potato Salad


Contributing Writer
Vicki McGraw
Elegant Edibles Catering

Well friends, with the Memorial Day holiday weekend almost upon us, do we dare hope that summer is ready to not just grace us with its presence, but to stick around for the foreseeable future? I am more than ready for a long, hot spell after having had such a long winter and rather dreary spring!

With the recent arrival of summery weather, many of us will start to plan our menus with lighter, cold foods (rather than soups and casseroles). Summer salads can be lighter, colorful and refreshing. Everyone has a favorite…be it macaroni or potato salad, pasta or Jell-o salad…and not only a favorite variety, but a frequently a favorite family recipe. As you might expect, while you can give a dozen cooks the same recipe to prepare, the chances of each dish turning out exactly the same are pretty slim! The differences can be subtle, simply a slight variation in measurements of an ingredient, or dramatic, as in “were they even making the same dish?” Just looking at my family, if my Mom, my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law and I all made the same dish, (for example, macaroni salad) they all would reflect our taste and personality, and each would be noticeably different, yet similar in the end. My mom would add lots of veggies, (especially cucumbers), my mother-in-law might add a little horseradish, my sister-in-law would add shrimp use very little dressing and I would add lots of eggs and some tuna. Same dish, with similar- yet different- outcomes

Let’s get creative…we don’t need to stick to the “same old-same old” when making our favorite salads just because that is how we have always done it! Something as simple as using real mayonnaise (like Hellmans) rather than salad dressing (such as Miracle Whip) will make a difference, but when the markets have so many great veggies, fruits and dressing options, and why stick to ordinary? We all know, fresh is best, so let’s kick up the wonderful flavors available to us. Try adding fresh herbs to your dressings for a sublte pop of flavor in your potato or macaroni salad. Kick up your ordinary iceberg lettuce salad by using spring greens and adding sliced berries, pecans, a sprinkle of crumbled bleu or feta cheese and top it with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice and olive oil. You can add a southwestern flare to any dish by adding corn, black beans and simple taco seasoning, or give it a Mediterranean flavor by adding fresh herbs, olives, artichokes and feta cheese. The sky is the limit if you are open to playing with your food! Just remember, it’s always a good idea to make yourself a note about how you tweeked your recipe so you can easily repeat it if your family loves it, or not do it again, in the off chance they hated it!

This week, why not add something new to your Memorial Day menu, and as we come together to celebrate a day off, let us remember with a grateful heart the sacrifices made by those who serve, have served and especially those who made the greatest sacrifice for our freedom. God Bless the USA!

Southwest Pasta Salad

  • 1 lb tri colored bowtie (or other shape) pasta
  • 1 c corn
  • 1 c black beans
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced thin
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • 1 each, red and green peppers, diced
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • ½ c lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ t cumin
  • ½ t chipotle seasoning

Cook pasta according to package direction. Drain and toss warm pasta with oil, vinegar and seasonings. Add remaining ingredients and chill well before serving.

Balsamic Potato Salad

  • 2 lbs red potatoes, diced in ½“ cubes (leave skin on)
  • ½ sweet onion, diced fine
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced thin
  • 1 red pepper, diced fine
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped coarsely
  • ¼ c olive oil
  • ½ c balsamic vinegar
  • 1 t fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley, to garnish

Cook potatoes and drain well; mix dressing ingredients together and pour over warm potatoes. Allow potatoes to cool to room temp, gently stirring to evenly coat with dressing. When cool, add remaining ingredients, mixing gently and chill well before serving.

To read more of Vicki McGraw’s commentaries on good cooking, fine recipes and perfect party treats, visit and click on Join Me in the Kitchen’s own page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.