- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 20, 2005

When I was a newspaper food editor in Atlanta in the 1980s, I remember that the end of summer signaled the beginning of college football season … and the beginning of tailgate frenzy and what seemed like endless recipes to serve from your car before the game.

In the years since those tailgate stories, I haven’t been tailgating, but I have prepared countless recipes that could be served from your station wagon, sport utility vehicle or truck right before the game.

One such recipe is this unique and totable salad from my sister Susan that pairs well with sandwiches or fried chicken. It’s based on cooked penne pasta, a bag of spinach and a container of grape tomatoes that you doctor up with seasoned feta cheese and bottled balsamic vinaigrette.

Make this salad the day before the tailgate meal or any picnic you have planned. Feel free to add pre-cooked shrimp or grilled chicken to make it more substantial.

Or scrap the tailgate plans and serve it alfresco in your back yard. It pairs well with crusty bread and a glass of red wine.

Susan’s penne and tomato salad

Salt for cooking the pasta, optional

1 pound penne

1 6-ounce bag spinach

1 pint grape tomatoes

½ cup bottled balsamic vinaigrette, or more if needed

1 4-ounce package pre-crumbled basil and tomato feta cheese

½ cup fresh basil slivers

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

Add salt, if desired, and stir in penne.

Reduce heat to medium-high and cook penne uncovered until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop spinach and cut tomatoes in half.

Drain penne well in a colander, shaking it a few times to remove any water that might still cling to the pasta.

Transfer penne to a serving bowl and pour vinaigrette over it. Stir to combine. Fold in chopped spinach, tomato halves and feta cheese.

Stir until all ingredients are coated with vinaigrette.

Add more vinaigrette, if needed, to moisten salad.

Sprinkle basil over top of salad and serve at once or cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


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