An orange-honey dressing makes this sweet and savory Citrus Pasta Salad pop with summer flavor.
In my former life as a small acreage farm-wife, our house stood in the middle of an old walnut orchard. There were a couple hundred trees: mostly standard English walnuts grafted onto Black Walnut stock. But at the top of the orchard there were five trees that had a unique strain that had been developed by the original owner, who called them Sunshine Walnuts.
The quality that distinguished our Sunshine Walnuts from others was that they lacked the bitterness that is found in most commercial walnuts, which made them perfect for baking, salads, and so on. (Apparently, I have a very high sensitivity to bitter, and avoid it whenever possible.)
Alas, having moved away from the farm, I had just about given up trying to find a sweet, non-bitter walnut until stumbled across some red walnuts.
Red walnuts are a fairly recent creation. They are not genetically modified [i.e., non-GMO]; rather, they were created using natural methods, by grafting Persian red-skinned walnuts onto larger and creamier English walnuts. A handful of walnut growers grow red walnuts, and distribute them across the country. You can probably find them at your local Whole Foods. However, if you can’t find them, don’t sweat it – before I found them, I’d been making this salad for years with old-fashioned brown walnuts.
This Citrus Pasta Salad makes a great potluck dish, and can easily be adapted for vegetarians. Plus, Mr. B gives it a glowing endorsement: the first time I made it for him, he said (between bites), “Oh, Baby, you can make this any time!”
Citrus Pasta Salad can be made with regular walnuts, or sliced almonds, or really whatever suits your fancy, but the color and flavor of the red walnuts is really wonderful if you can find them.
Citrus Pasta Salad
- 8 oz rotini cooked and drained
- 1 lbs roasted turkey julienned (optional)
- 4 oz. mozzarella cheese cubed 1/4"
- 1 lb red grapes
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or sliced almonds
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 2 whole oranges
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- Dash of salt
To make Salad:
Combined cooled pasta with turkey (optional), cheese, grapes and almonds.
Pour Citrus Dressing over pasta mixture and refrigerate. (I like to reserve a little of the dressing to drizzle on just before serving.) Toss before serving.
To make Citrus Dressing:
Zest one orange. Juice both oranges (about 2/3 cups orange juice), and combine zest, juice, honey and salt in a blender. Blend until smooth. While blender is running, slowly add oil.