|Saffron Pasta Salad
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
1 medium garlic clove, smashed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup / 120 ml olive oil
bit of sugar/honey or splash of cream (if needed)
12 ounces / 340 g dried pasta, such as orecchietti
1 pound / 16 oz / 453g thin asparagus, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch segments
3 ounces / 85g goat cheese, crumbled
fresh chopped chive and toasted pine nuts (optional)
To make the dressing add the vinegar and saffron to a small saucepan. Over gentle heat bring just to a simmer. Remove from heat (immediately) and let cool.
Sprinkle the garlic clove with the salt and mash and chop into a paste. Place this in a mixing bowl along with the cooled vinegar and saffron, lemon juice, and mustard. Whisk together, then gradually whisk in the olive oil. Taste, and if it is too harsh for your liking you can soften some of the acidity with a bit of sweetener or a splash of cream. Set aside.
Bring a large pasta pot of water to a boil, salt well and add the pasta. Cook until al dente. Just 30 seconds before the pasta is finished cooking add the asparagus. You just barely want to cook the asparagus. Drain, rinse with cold water, and shake off as much extra water as possible.
Place the pasta in a large bowl, toss with the saffron vinaigrette, and set aside or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (or up to a day). Toss again, taste, and add a bit more salt if needed.
You can serve this slightly chilled, at room temperature, or even reheated in a skillet (really good), topped with tiny dollops of goat cheese. A handful of chopped chives and toasted pine nuts makes this extra good.
Inspired by the Orzo Vegetable Salad in Saffron Vinaigrette in Diane Worthington's The Taste of Summer (Bantam Books, 1988)