For our family, Memorial Day marks the beginning of road trip season. As summer begins, and the scenery in New England reaches its peak, my husband and I love nothing more than to strap our daughter into her car seat, buckle our seat belts and hit the open road. With our GPS activated we enjoy smooth scenic trips to visit friends and family, sprinkled with side jaunts to our favorite foodie restaurants along the way. Sometimes, of course, our trips go haywire, like when a highway suddenly shuts down due to fire, or my daughter experiences a rare bout of carsickness. I chalk up these unfortunate moments to being an integral part of the family vacation experience, they are totally unavoidable, but easy to forget. In fact, there is really only one part of our trips that I always remember and unequivocally hate: arriving home. Every time we start unloading the car my travel-induced relaxation wears off and I snap into household mode, thinking about loads of laundry, stacks of mail, and, of course, what to make for dinner.
When we returned from Martha's Vineyard on Monday evening there was very little food in the house. At first I thought I might get away with not cooking until I noted my daughter's pouty expression, she was obviously hungry. So, working quickly, I pulled my go-to recipe binder off the shelf, took stock of my pantry and got to work on an Emergency Meal. During the warmer months I prefer to make lighter meals which is why I chose to make this hearty salad. It is full of fresh peppery arugula, tangy goat cheese and sweet sausage. In lieu of vinaigrette I merely add a cup of cooked pasta with a drizzle of pasta water to melt the cheese, this creates a light dressing that doesn't overpower the delicate greens.
Of all my summer Emergency Meals this one was perfect for cooking on Monday evening. I had all the ingredients on hand and, since there were no difficult cooking techniques involved, it was a cinch for me to quickly pull together while a ravenous toddler whimpered at my feet. To make it, I first boiled the pasta in salted water and heated the chicken sausage in a skillet. The remainder of the ingredients were ready to eat right out of the refrigerator, thus all I had to do was assemble the salad in a big bowl. The entire preparation took less than twenty minutes and yielded a deliciously filling meal, much to the happiness of my hungry family. As I ate my helping I realized that the worst part of coming home from our trip was already over. All I had left to do was the laundry.
Naptime Orecchiette, Sausage and Goat Cheese Salad
adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
3/4 c. orecchiette pasta
2 c. fresh arugula
2 large links chicken sausage, preferbly a sweet flavor like sun-dried tomato
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
2 T. fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & Pepper to Taste
1. Cook orecchiette in salted water until al dente. RESERVE 1/2 c. of pasta water. Drain, set aside.
2. Cook sausage links in a skillet until fully cooked through. Remove from heat and cut into thin slices.
3. In a large heatproof bowl add sausage slices, arugula, goat cheese and parmesan. Top with warm pasta and reserved pasta water. Working quickly, toss all of the ingredients to melt the cheese and wilt the greens. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
Naptime Recipe Props: This salad packs a punch, it is full of good protein and is extremely easy to prepare. Also, given that this is a salad, you could add or omit whatever ingredients you would like. I have used regular mixed greens in lieu of arugula, and have used grilled chicken slices instead of sausage. Feel free to make adjustments to suit your own tastes.
Naptime Stopwatch: The longest part about this salad is the pasta, it takes about 12 minutes to cook. While it is boiling I cook the chicken sausage and assemble the ingredients in the bowl. Then, add the pasta and the meal is ready!
Naptime Notes: For my daughter we chop the arugula leaves so they are easy to chew and she adores the orecchiette shaped pasta and sausage slices, they are easy to pick up with her little fingers. My husband and I love this meal because it hits the spot without being overly heavy.