Pasta Picnic: Make Ahead, Chill And Enjoy

IN THE KITCHEN

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One of my favorite magazines is "Real Simple." The July issue had a food feature on picnicking at a concert under the stars. The main recipe was "Eggplant Pasta Salad" -- but I don't eat eggplant. I tried it once, in an eggplant Parmesan dish and was so disgusted by it, I threw the whole thing out.

I still like the idea of a nice pasta salad for a picnic, so I went in search of substitutes for some of the recipe's ingredients.

At the Woman's Wellness Fair back in March, Gary Bedsworth, who presented a cooking workshop, recommended the Web site "foodsubs.com" to find alternate ingredients. To find substitutes for eggplant, capers and pine nuts I went to the site for the first time and found a wealth of information. It now will have a place in my "favorites" list.

Zucchini Pasta Salad

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 celery stalks, sliced

1 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

Kosher salt and pepper

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons chopped green olives or

dill pickles

1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted (optional) - Pine nuts are also known as piñons in this part of the world. Walnuts, which are much easier to come by, can be used instead.

1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 pound dried penne pasta

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the celery and cook, 3 minutes. Stir in the zucchini and tomatoes.

In a small bowl, combine the tomato paste, vinegar, 1/4 cup water, 2-1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the sugar. Stir into the zucchini. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is tender. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped olives or dill pickles, pine nuts (if using) or walnuts, and parsley.

Meanwhile, cook the penne according to the package directions. Toss with the remaining oil, let cool, and cover. Combine the zucchini with the pasta before serving.

Makes 6 servings that can be put in either one large or several individual covered bowls and easily carried to one of Payson's concerts under the stars or on a picnic anywhere in the Rim Country.

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