Sunday, August 5, 2012

Spinach, Feta, Roasted Peppers Pasta Salad: Back to school routines

Our summer is over.  Daughters school started and once again, I'm in the throes of early wakeups, lunch packing, snack packing, school supply shopping, massive form filling, and general breathlessness as I try to keep up with the pace that always accompanies back to school.

But in the midst of it all, I remember my time as a classroom teacher; "Back-to-school" was a time filled with excitement, anxiety, stress, joy, trepidation, and more stress.  It's not an easy time to be a teacher; parents come up to you with a million questions, some students may burst out crying in your class (kindergarten issue), others still may announce in a stage whisper, "This is boring" while all the time you keep that smile plastered on your face.  I make no comparison - as hard as my life is as a parent with back to school, I know the life of a teacher is that much harder.  I'm dealing with three children, they're dealing with over 20.

I always go out of my way, at the beginning of the school year, to do small, quiet things to show teachers that I appreciate what they are going through.  I actually really DO appreciate it, and I don't like to make a lot of noise about it, but I like to do something small for them.  One thing I've made it a tradition to do is to feed them.  I know that the last thing that a teacher wants to do during their first or second weeks of school is cook - it's too harried, too stressful, and the push and shove of many children in and out of your space is hard.  I quietly try and give something nourishing to the teachers after school so that they can enjoy a bit of peace and have some peace of mind, if only for the 15 minutes they eat.

Usually I do the tomato orzo salad, mostly because it holds up well, can be eaten the day after, and I have yet to find a person who doesn't love it.  But I wanted to try something new this time as well, since I had it in my head, a pasta salad that used spinach, bell peppers and feta.  I recruited friend SH, who is usually my partner in crime for food related experiments, and together we set out to make a bunch of pasta salads for different teachers at our school.

The end result was lovely, a pasta salad that was bright, colorful, nutty, sweet, salty, all at the same time.  The teachers got two pasta salads, a few cookies, all packed with a few nice touches for them to enjoy.  Friend SH and I were a bit tired by the time we got to school, but no matter, the smiles on the teachers' as well as the squeal of glee from one made it all worth it.  I even got a lovely handwritten note thanking me.  How that teacher managed to do that after her two days, is beyond me.

Spinach, Feta, Roasted Bell Peppers Pasta Salad
Serves 8

Ingredients
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup olive oil

1 pound penne, or your choice of pasta salad shape (Bear in mind that baby spinach takes up some space, so you want a shape that isn’t too small that will get overwhelmed)

6 oz bag, baby spinach
1 7-ounce package feta cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 cup chopped fresh basil
12 oz jar (drained about 7 to 8 ounces) roasted red pepper (Trader Joes has a very lovely one)
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (or pine nuts if you prefer)

Method
Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, and honey in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.)

Bring water to boil in pot. Salt water and cook pasta according to package directions. Wash and drain pasta.

Mix together spinach, feta, red onion, basil, roasted red peppers, pasta. . Add vinaigrette; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Add almonds; toss. Serve at room temperature.

Printable recipe

packed up, almost ready to go

1 comment:

Sandy said...

I'm making this tonight with some chicken, perfect meal for a hot day!

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