Last Sunday, as we were driving back to the house on Linebaugh Avenue, I saw the sign nearest and dearest to my heart: "Fresh produce."
I'd only arrive back home in Tampa the night before, and the cupboards were bare. But I kept driving, determined to finish my errands. I'd come back.
Well, Friday, I went back to Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm and found a beautiful bounty of seasonal, freshly picked hydroponic produce. Hydroponic produce isn't ground in the ground, it's grown ABOVE ground in a special container. It uses less water, no pesticides, and the formula is completely healthy.
Music to my ears. Clean food, grown locally. How can you miss?
For $5 I got banana peppers, some beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers, and some red jalapeno peppers -- beautiful stuff.
I struck up a conversation with the lovely owner, Dave, who told me that the former owner of the lot was born and raised in...Milledgeville. He said, "she went to some women's college there." I told him I taught at that former women's college.
It was pure Karma. PURE and natural, and local.
So as Dave and I were talking, I told him what I planned to do with the lovely veggies I'd gathered from his farm. I promised the recipe, and here it is:
Hearty Greek Pasta Salad
2 cups cooked GF pasta (I used Tinkyada Brown Rice Fusili, but you can use any pasta you want if you're not GF. I think those veggie spirals would be good with this.)
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
2-3 large fresh tomatoes, chopped fine (or 8-10 cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters)
1 ripe Hass avocado, cut into slivers
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette dressing (I use Newman's Own Light or make my own with Penzeys Country French Vinaigrette, fresh olive oil and Balsamic vinegar.
1/4 cup green onions, sliced (I had to use the freeze dried Penzeys Shallots
1 4 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained
1 4 oz. can drained sliced black olives (your choice of black olives)
1/2 jar capers, drained
1/4 cup each Italian flat leaf parsley and basil, cut in a chiffonade
2 large banana peppers, chopped (I used red and yellow) OR bell peppers, chopped
1 small jar roasted red peppers, chopped
2 small or one large burpless cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
1 t. Tony Chachere's seasoning (contains salt) or seasoning salt of choice
1 t. Mrs. Dash Garlic and Herb seasoning (or garlic powder and oregano).
After pasta is cooked and drained, place in a large serving bowl. Immediately add onions, parsley, basil, salad dressing, season salt, and Mrs. Dash. Stir. This is the essential step here, because the warm pasta will absorb the flavoring and you won't need as much dressing.
Stir in the beans, olives, capers, peppers, cucumbers, and peppers. Mix thoroughly. Smooth over the top. Arrange the feta cheese in the middle of the top of the salad, and then ring the cheese with the chopped tomatoes. Toss the avocado with lemon juice (so it won't brown) and sprinkle it on top of the feta cheese.
Let stand at room temperature. Don't refrigerate this before you serve it!
Want to make it a main dish salad? Add two cans of drained, flaked tuna in olive oil (or a pound of cooked, seasoned shrimp) to the pasta mixture before you top with cheese.
Show it to your guests before you toss it all together. Serves about six as a main dish salad, and 10 as a side dish (depending on the guests, of course).
You can read about my friend Dave and Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm here:
Much love, and gotta go eat that salad now!