Friday, May 14, 2010


Vacations are wonderful. Re-entry into the real world however is not so wonderful. I've been back from Aruba two weeks and am almost feeling like my old self again. I can't say that's good, but it's darn hard getting anything accomplished when you're still in that Caribbean state of mind.

Before we talk food, I'd like to tell you about my trip, with a little background to boot. Jeannine (from Canada) and I met about 15 years ago in a resort not too far from Aruba. She lives 500 miles north west of Toronto and craves the sun and sand as much as I do. We became fast friends and travel buddies since, and have visited Turks and Caicos, Mexico (a few times), Punta Cana, and Bermuda . And then we discovered Aruba. Ahh. Aruba. I believe this was our third trip there. We always stay at the Tamarjin Hotel where all the rooms (bungalos) are ON THE BEACH. Walk out your back door and take a dip in the sea. Yes. That is the allure of the Tam.

Everything at the hotel is low key and relaxing. If you're a beach bum, you're in heaven. And if you have a hankering for reptilian critters, you'll make a lot of new friends.

There's a lovely downtown area 5 minutes from the hotel with a marina, gazillions of high end jewelry shops and boutiques, restaurants, casinos, and a colorful 2-3 block bazzaar with stalls filled with everything from junk you'd never buy to very nice clothes and accessories. And the bus trip costs $2.30 round trip.

And in the evening, the sunsets are spectacular. Every. Night.

The first weekend I was home I had no desire to food shop, cook or unpack my bags. But a girl's got to eat something other than peanut butter and crackers. So after a quick trip to the market to get cat food and a few essentials I decided to make one of my simple, go-to dishes. A Mediterranean-inspired pasta salad. Simple. Healthy. And quite tasty. Almost all the ingredients are in your pantry, and if not, definately in your local supermarket.
Mediterranean-Inspired Pasta Salad
1 cup penne pasta, uncooked
4 scallions sliced 1/2 inch
10 to 12 pitted Kalamata olives halved
1 14 oz can quartered artichokes in water drained
1 pint grape tomatoes halved
1 T capers drained
1 5 oz can tuna, drained and flaked
1 clove garlic minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup plus 1 T red wine vinegar (I add more)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
To make the salad:
Cook pasta according to package directions. Rinse with cold water and drain. Place pasta in large mixing bowl and add the rest of the salad ingredients.
To make the dressing:
Combine all ingredients in a medium size jar and shake until combined. *note- I like my dressings a little more acidic than some, so I often add another T of vinegar. Taste the dressing to see if it's to your liking, before you add too much. Pour dressing over salad ingredients and toss. It's perfect at room temperature or refrigerate until you're ready to eat.

Remix-Sometimes I don't add tuna and use a can of drained, rinsed cannellini beans. Then I add 4 ounces of crumbled goat cheese. The goat cheese adds a tangy creaminess that is so complementary to all the ingredients. I also suggest adding 1/2 tsp dried oregano and/or crushed red pepper flakes to the dressing. My simple rule with a pantry salad like this is to have at least 2 fresh vegetables in the mix. In mine I chose the tomatoes and scallions.

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