Avocado Pasta Salad Is My New Favorite Lunch
After college, I worked at a large advertising agency here in Chicago for two years. Among the other benefits of working at a company of its size was the in-house café, AKA The Bistro. Prepared entrées weren't always the most delicious or healthy but every once in a while, there would be something truly good, and Wrap Day always sent a line out the door and down the hall. For me, though, it wasn't about the burgers, or the soups, or the tacos. Well, scratch that. The housemade salsas were excellent. It was sometimes about the tacos. But, by and large, if I was in The Bistro, you would find me at the salad bar.
Now, historically, I have not been a salad lover. Sure, I see their value, but for me salads have always been a meal accompaniment. In college, for example, I had a routine leafy greens + olives + croutons + cheese + ranch dressing combo I'd have alongside my pasta a few times a week. These days, I really enjoy my mom's signature salad: 50/50 mix with dried cranberries, walnuts or pecans and poppyseed dressing. It wasn't until hot summers at the office, though, that I realized salads can be a perfect lunch and there was one detail at The Bistro that set its salad bar apart from so many others I'd seen before.
Nestled alongside the various greens, fresh cut veggies, sliced hardboiled eggs, beans, proteins and cheeses, there was, every day, a fresh, delicious pasta salad. Growing up, I had plenty of pasta salad, usually along with American-style fish or chicken, so I enjoyed it as a break from our usual Pakistani cuisine. But I'd never had pasta salad like this, drenched in creamy sauces, featuring peas or celery, incorporating tuna or salmon. These pasta salads—and there were so many different styles!—got me through many a long day in my cubicle.
Unlike many of The Bistro's other patrons, I always piled my pasta salad in with other options from the salad bar. Some of my favorite "toppings" were chick peas, black beans, peas, cucumber, corn, peas and, the kicker, pickled jalapeños. I also always drizzled on some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Something tells me that might be weird. I don't care; it's delicious.
Since I started working from home, one of the things I missed most about the office environment was The Bistro. We didn't have a communal eating space, but at least there was a place we could hang out and chat while picking out our lunches. Today, almost a year later, I still miss that experience so I decided to recreate it at home. I whipped up a batch of avocado pasta salad (recipe below) and it plus one 15 ounce can of black beans and another of chick peas got me through three solid lunches this week. The olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mountain of pickled jalapeños I dumped on top didn't hurt either.
Even though I made this salad in the quiet of my apartment, empty aside from me, on Monday morning, the experience of putting together lunch from the salad bar in my fridge really made me happy. Sure, it didn't take me back to the office where I'd see old friends, but it was healthy and satisfying and reminiscent of the time that I discovered my love of pasta salad.
AVOCADO PASTA SALAD
- 2 cups small pasta, such as farfalle
- 1 avocado
- handful cilantro (roughly chopped)
- 1-1/2 tablespoon lime juice
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise (plus more, if dry)
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- Salt (to taste)
- Pepper (to taste)
Cook pasta according to package instructions. Drain and set aside to cool.
Remove fruit from avocado and cut into chunks. Place in food processor with cilantro, lime juice, mayonnaise and garlic paste. Blend until creamy, then add salt and pepper to taste. If dry, add more mayonnaise and blend to mix.
Mix avocado mixture into cooled pasta, cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for a few hours before eating.
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Until next week, Amina
PS: Shiraaz teased me for signing off with "love" last week. Is that weird? I really do love you, readers.