Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hawaiian Quinoa Sea Shell Pasta Salad with Bay Scallops

     A Nice Refreshing Pasta Salad For Lunch Or A Picnic! 
     Quinoa is a nutritious South American grain that was a main staple of Aztec and Incan cultures.  Quinoa is gluten free, so it is a nice choice for those who are on a restricted diet.  The flavor of Quinoa is richer tasting than old world wheat grain.  Quinoa can be used in place of wheat in many recipes including polenta, pasta or flat bread. 

     Pasta salads are nothing new.  Some pasta salads are better than others.  In average quality restaurants and at cheap buffets, it seems like the only pasta salad that is offered is Rotini Pasta with Vegetables and Vinaigrette.  Usually a pre-made manufactured vinaigrette is used at these kinds of places.  Nine times out of ten, the pasta is way overcooked.  Low quality production methods are the reason why pasta salads have been thoroughly burnt out from a marketing standpoint.  

     For a better pasta salad, a pasta salad should be treated as if it was an Italian pasta!  Every great Italian chef that I worked with demanded pasta that was cooked to a perfect al dente texture.  At every fine café I worked in, the vinaigrettes, aioli or mayonnaise salad dressings were made from scratch and they had character.  The pasta salads were made shortly before serving, so the acidic nature of the dressing did not affect quality.  Pasta salads still sell in good numbers at fine restaurants because customers know that the quality will be high.  

     Pasta salad should have substance, some kind of a theme and and most of all there should be plenty flavor.  A bland pasta salad is as pleasant as chewing on cardboard!  
     First, choose a theme!  I chose a simple Hawaiian tropical theme for today's pasta salad recipe.  Macaroni Salad is a main staple in Hawaiian cuisine and a mayonnaise is traditional for this kind of salad.    
     Secondly, add substance to the theme!  Crunchy garden vegetables, bits of fresh pineapple and some kind of popular seafood item, like shrimp or bay scallops will support the theme.  
     Last but not least, boost the flavor!  Minced cilantro, seasoning, spices, ginger and lime juice create a nice tropical flavor.  Allow the pasta salad to chill and marinate for only a short time, so the texture and flavors remain crisp and bright.   

     Hawaiian Quinoa Sea Shell Pasta Salad with Bay Scallops:
     This recipe yields about 2 3/4 cups or 1 large portion!
     The mayonnaise salad ingredients are assembled first, so the flavors meld.  The pasta and scallops are prepared last, so the flavor of the scallops are at a peak.  Scallops lose flavor if they are cooked too far ahead of time. 
     Mayonnaise Dressing Preparation:
     Step 1:  Place 2 tablespoons of diced carrot in a mixing bowl.
     Add 2 tablespoons of diced celery.
     Add 2 tablespoons of seeded diced tomato.
     Add 1 tablespoon of diced bermuda onion.
     Add 1 tablespoon of diced red bell pepper.
     Add 1 tablespoon of thin sliced green onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of large diced fresh pineapple.
     Set the bowl aside.
     Step 2:  Add 1/4 cup of mayonnaise to the vegetables and pineapple.
     Add 1 tablespoon of minced cilantro.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of ginger paste.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 small pinch of allspice. 
     Add 1 small pinch of ground celery seed.
     Add 1 small pinch of cayenne pepper.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Stir the ingredients together.
     Chill the mixture in a refrigerator to about 41ºF.  (This will allow the flavors to meld.)
     Step 3:  *About 2 cups of cooked pasta will be needed to make the salad.  Quinoa pasta does not substantially expand in size when boiled, so about 1 3/4 cups of dried quinoa pasta shells will be enough. 
     Cook 1 portion of quinoa sea shell pasta in boiling water over high heat, till the pasta is almost cooked al dente.  (About 3/4 fully cooked.)   
     Step 4:  Just before the pasta cooked al dente, add 4 ounces of small bay scallops.  (Small bay scallops only take about a minute or two to cook.)
     Cook the pasta and scallops together.  (Using this method will give the pasta a scallop flavor!)
     When the quinoa pasta is al dente, the scallops should be finished cooking.  
     Step 5:  Drain the hot water off of the pasta scallops.
     Cool the pasta and scallops under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta and scallops.
     Step 6:  Add the quinoa pasta and scallops to the chilled ingredients in the mixing bowl.
     Toss the ingredients together.
     If the salad is a bit dry looking, add 1 or 2 spoonfuls of mayonnaise while mixing.  

     Simple Presentation:
     Mound a generous portion of the Hawaiian Quinoa Sea Shell Pasta Salad with Bay Scallops on a plate.
     Garnish with a slice of lime.
     *It is easy to imaging how to create a more complex tropical style composed salad presentation.  A bed of lettuce leaves and tropical fruit garnishes work best for a fancy Hawaiian style presentation.

     This is a nice macaroni salad for a backyard chargrill Luau Party!

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