Today's recipe is one of those "kitchen sink" kind of recipes. I'm giving you specific ingredients here, because they are my favorite things to put in this dish, but it shouldn't limit you. If you absolutely can't bear to eat this dish without black olives or marinated artichokes, then by all means...put 'em in! The recipe I'm sharing was something introduced to me by a simple woman with whom I worked at Trader Joe's. She was from the wilds of North Dakota and knew how to cook every down-home dish you could possibly want. One morning she made the most delectable sausage gravy and biscuits for us at the store, all with only a small oven and one of those plug-in pans! And with vegetarian sausage no less! She made the following dish, though, for our grand opening and we served it with the most delicious chicken sausage ever. It was such a big hit, and I've made it ever since. People ask me for the "recipe" all the time, and I laugh because it's so simple.
So what is it already!?!? Pasta salad, of course! People do a lot of wacky things to pasta salad in my opinion. Too much of this, too little of that. Herbs and spices out the wazoo. I understand that making things "gourmet" is very in vogue these days, but having been raised on simple and homemade things, I can't seem to justify deviating from that way of thinking no matter how hard I try.
So here's the recipe for:
Dakota Pasta Salad
- 2 lbs. of pasta, cooked, drained and cooled (most recently I used gemelli and cavatappi, but penne or rigatoni works well)
- 1 "European" cucumber (these are the longer cucumbers, usually wrapped in plastic), cut into bite size chunks
- 1 container of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (or two handfuls from your farmer's market!)
- 1/2 bag frozen corn, or 1 1/2 cups of fresh corn, off the cob
- 1/2 bag frozen peas
- 2-3 cans/packages of tuna
- 2 tablespoons onion relish (something like this or sometimes you can find this in jars at specialty markets)
- 1 grated (as in, run it up and down the cheese grater) medium-sized onion
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 heaping tablespoons full (or about 1 cup) of mayo (I prefer good old-fashioned Hellman's)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons yellow mustard, or dijon if you're feeling fancy
- In my experience, vegan mayo differs little in flavor, texture and usability from regular mayo, so feel free to substitute.
- Like I said, feel free to use artichokes, black olives, your favorite kind of tomato, or any other veggie addition you'd like. If you don't like onions, leave 'em out!
- Tuna is what my Dakota buddy originally used, but it's not a focal point of the dish. Feel free to leave it out or substitute it with chunks of grilled chicken, diced ham or no animal products at all!
- Feel free to add little nuggets of your favorite cheese, too.