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Recipe: Bright flavors make pasta salad sing

  • LOS ANGELES TIMES
                                Thai Pork Jerky Pasta Salad.

    LOS ANGELES TIMES

    Thai Pork Jerky Pasta Salad.

Onions may seem a perennial ingredient since they’re available all year, but red onions taste especially fresh and crisp now.

We’re nearing the end of the harvest, but these purple bulbs are still coming straight out of the ground and into our kitchens at this time of year. That means they don’t have the harsh bite, dry petals or papery skins that older onions develop.

To highlight red onions’ mild sweetness and crunch, I toss thin slivers raw into pasta salad. They turn it into a dish I actually like.

Normally, I have a love-hate relationship with pasta salad. It’s everything I need — fast, easy, make-ahead, portable, big batch — and not what I want. At least not in its usual form. The cold noodles are too hard or too soft, too bland or too gloppy.

Here, they’re just right. When tossed warm with a Thai-inspired fish sauce vinaigrette, the pasta stays tender and soaks up the sauce’s spicy, savory tang.

Red onion brightens the mix while pork jerky, a snack that is quickly becoming a pantry staple, adds heft and saves you the hassle of cooking meat. Crinkles of red cabbage turn this into a hearty yet light one-dish meal.

THIS SALAD is delicious with any pork or beef jerky, especially Asian-flavored varieties. Kaffir lime leaves deliver an herbaceous bite without the risk of wilting like most leafy herbs. If you can’t find them, substitute the freshly grated zest of a lime or two very thinly sliced fresh bay leaves.

THAI PORK JERKY PASTA SALAD

By Genevieve Ko

  • Kosher salt, as needed for pasta
  • 1 pound fusilli or other short pasta
  • 12 ounces pork jerky, preferably Asian-style, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red cabbage, diced
  • 8 fresh kaffir lime leaves, veins removed and very thinly sliced
  • >> Sauce:
  • 3 Thai bird or other small hot chilies, seeded, if desired, and minced
  • 5 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, whisk sauce ingredients together in large bowl.

Drain pasta in colander and rinse under cold water until just warm. Shake dry in colander, then immediately transfer to bowl with sauce. Toss until well-coated.

Add jerky, onion, cabbage and lime leaves, mix well. Serves 6 to 8.

VARIATIONS

>> With roast pork: Substitute char siu (Chinese roast pork) for the pork jerky.

>> With tofu: Marinate tofu in Asian-style sauce. Deep-fry and substitute for pork jerky.

>> Gluten-free: Substitute cooked rice noodles for fusilli.

>> Make ahead: Refrigerate the pasta salad in an airtight container up to three days. Bring to room temperature to serve.

Nutritional information unavailable.

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