Avocado-Basil Pasta Salad

A great salad for the summer because it uses fresh ingredients. You could also serve this as a hot pasta dish, but I prefer it cold as a pasta salad. It’s a great idea for a summer lunch. Thanks to my friend Ashley for the recipe!

Serves 4-5

8 oz.dried bow tie pasta
2 medium avocados, halved, pitted, peel removed, and coarsely chopped*
6 slices bacon, cooked until crispy, then placed on a paper towl to drain
1/2 red tomato, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Cook the pasta according to package directions, turning off the heat 1 minute before it’s done.
While the pasta is cooking, combine everything else but the cheese in a bowl. Add the pasta and mix. Top each serving with cheese.
If you’re serving this cold as a pasta salad, place it in the refrigerator for at least a few hours before serving.
* For the avocados, choose those that are black and not green, because black ones are ripe. Slice them in half all the way around, then turn the two halves in different directions to loosen them from the pit. Remove the pit. To remove the peel, either gently pop the avocado half out of the peel (don’t force it), or use a sharp knife to make small cuts at the edge of the peel and carefully lift the peel away in sections.

Arugula Salad with Grapes

This is another recipe dictated by my pregnancy appetite these days, but it’s a light and refreshing salad that could work well under normal circumstances, too! The combination of tart grapes with creamy avocado is divine. Try this for a light lunch with friends or as a simple first course at dinner.

Serves 2

Fresh arugula
16 green grapes, washed and halved lengthwise
1 ripe avocado, peeled, halved, pitted, and sliced
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil

Drop about two handfuls of arugula on each plate. Top with an equal amount of grapes and avocado, breaking up the avocado slices just a little before you add them. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve.

Santa Fe Chicken Salad

This southwestern chicken salad won my cook-off at home last night. It looks and tastes like a main-dish salad at a restaurant — big, delicious, with bite-size pieces and plenty of crunch. The recipe calls for cooked chicken, which makes this a great way to use up leftovers. If you don’t have leftovers to use, I recommend placing some chicken pieces in boiling water until cooked through, then chopping or shredding it as desired.

Serves 4-5 as main dish

6 cups Romaine lettuce, torn in pieces
4 oz. corn tortilla chips, crushed by hand, with a few whole chips saved for garnish
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp. chili sauce (use a thick opaque one — I like Nando’s Hot Peri-Peri Sauce)
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce, like Tabasco
2 cups chopped or shredded chicken meat (from roughly 4 chicken breast halves)
5 green onions, chopped
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and rained
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 avocado, peeled and sliced into thin wedges, then halved
2 tomatoes, cut into think wedges, then halved

Line plates or pasta bowls with lettuce, then top with chips. In small bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar, chili sauce and hot pepper sauce. Pour into larger mixing bowl and combine with the rest of the ingredients, tossing to make sure everything is coated. Place the mixture on top of the chips and Romaine, then garnish with a few whole chips.

For best presentation, pull out some tomato or avocado pieces from the mixture and lay them on top.