11 May 2009

A Dish on the Fly

In college, I waited tables at a Chili's. I'd come home to my apartment with aching feet, a grease-stained shirt and hair that smelled like burgers and fries. Despite all of that, I really liked my job. I loved being part of something that until then, seemed so secretive to me. I'd never been in a restaurant kitchen. I'd eaten at restaurant, but never known just how it all came together. One of the things I loved about my job was learning all the lingo. Understanding it all made me feel like part of the club.

"On the fly" is restaurant speak for pronto. It's a phrase that's good to know, but one you hope you don't have to use much. It makes you very unpopular. As a server, it's hard to say it to a cook and not make it sound like marching orders. Of course, I was usually using it because I forgot to add something to my ticket -- like when you send in an entire order and forget your table ordered an appetizer until you see their entrees sitting in the window. If it was a simple green salad, the cooks might give you only a minimal amount of crap. If it was something fried that simply had to spend six minutes in the bubbling oil, and the fry cook was already backed up because customers can't get enough of those Chicken Crispers, you'd be lucky if the cooks (who were typically men) weren't making sexist, blonde jokes every time you passed by. For the rest of your waitressing career.

Thankfully now, I only have myself to tick off when I don't catch something early. Like last week when I discovered at the last minute that an event I was going to was a potluck. Scrambling, I did a mental inventory of my pantry. It seemed everything I had on hand would give me a mere two servings or so.

I settled on a bag of pasta and some frozen peas.

The result was tasty and, thankfully, easy. I've been making a version of this for quite some time, just altering it slightly based on whatever I've got in the kitchen. It's simple, and, frankly, doesn't require a recipe. I'll tell you how I made this one, but don't feel obligated to duplicate. I added avocado because I thought it would make the color a beautiful green, which it was, even if only slightly once it mingled with the pasta.

I made the same salad recently without the avocado, added shredded carrots and diced red bell pepper. Sometimes I even add tuna to make it more of a meal. That said, I dutifully ate the remainder of this salad for lunch straight from the bowl while standing over the sink. The best part about this recipe, is that it comes straight from staples you can have on hand at any time. And you never know when you'll slip up and forget, or, even better, when you'll have an impromptu invitation. Now you don't have to show up empty handed.

Green Pasta Salad

1/2 cup mayo
1 small avocado
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley
1 pound of small pasta such as shells
3 cups (roughly) frozen peas, thawed
Salt and Pepper

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain, rinse to cool and drain again. Toss pasta in a light drizzle of oil and set aside. Process first four ingredients in a food processor, reserving a small portion of parsley for garnish. Combine pasta, with mayo dressing and peas. Add chopped parsley on top for garnish. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Note: If you don't add avocado, you don't need the vinegar or lemon juice, which is just added to help the avocado keep its color.

No comments: