This pasta salad was a hit when Alison and I made up a giant batch of it to serve at the Taste of Sonoma event a few years ago. I first made this for a potluck picnic at church and no less than five people came up to me and said, “Did you by chance make that quinoa salad? It was de-LICOUS!” (when pondering what to name it, Sierra even recommended Really Yummy Pasta Salad). And here I was afraid the quinoa would freak people out. Truth is, there’s a lot to love about this salad: a healthy dose of whole grains in the form of quinoa and whole grain penne, a break from basil with chives and parsley, and a lip-smacking tart-sweet balance from the corn and lime juice combo. This pasta salad is a potluck winner, whether you’re making it for a backyard barbecue or a high-end event. And, yep, you can make this pasta salad a day in advance — in fact it tastes even better when you do because the flavors have time to develop.
Last night, we made our usual end-of-the-weekend pilgrimage to the Plaza here in Healdsburg, only this time we were joined by dozens of others participating in the Eat-in organized by Slow Food USA in an effort to change school lunch policy. Like a big picnic potluck, tables were filled with bowls of salad, local bread and cheeses, fruit fresh from the trees and vegetables both roasted and straight out of the garden.
I’d known for a while what dish I wanted to bring: Pollo en Jocon. My friend, food writer and cooking instructor Sandra Gutierrez, sent me this recipe so we could bring the tastes and scents of Guatemala, our daughter’s native land, into our own kitchen. Somehow it seemed an appropriate dish to share. I also made it in honor of Ana Maria and Mayra, a Guatemalan mother and daughter who have become as close as family despite being thousands of miles away. Our paths first crossed through Slow Food, and I wanted to bring something from their country so they’d be with us in spirit at the plaza.
One dish. And yet it connected me to Sandra, who was kind enough to share the recipe, and Pedro, the farmer who grew the tomatillos we used. It connected us to our daughter’s birth country and others we love dearly there. It connected us to the people who dug into it at the Eat-in, and even to the hope of a healthier future for our children.
Food is about so much more than just feeding ourselves. This week, be aware of how many ways it connects you.