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Asparagus and Fennel Pasta Salad

This sophisticated pasta salad is crisp and fresh, with an unexpected combination of flavors. Fresh fennel, a light green bulb with feathery leaves, adds a sweet, licorice taste. Roasting the fennel mellows it, making a delicate background for the more pronounced accents of tomatoes, Greek olives and feta cheese.

Roasted vegetables:
1 fresh fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced, see notes
2 cups thinly sliced onions
1 pound asparagus, stemmed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced or pressed garlic
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 ounces penne pasta
2 cups diced tomatoes
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and thinly sliced, see notes
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup grated feta cheese

Notes: Remove the stalks and fronds from the fennel bulb and slice the bulb crosswise into thin circles. Remove and discard the innermost round core sections, and cut larger pieces from the outer layers into 2-inch lengths.

To pit the olives, slice lengthwise around each olive and twist the olives apart. Or whack each olive sharply to break it open.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil an 8-by-15-inch baking pan and begin to bring 2 quarts of water to a boil.

Place the fennel, onions and asparagus on the baking pan, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and toss evenly to coat. Roast uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring about every 7 minutes. The vegetables should be crisp-tender and the asparagus still bright green

While the vegetables roast, whisk all of the dressing ingredients and set aside. When the water boils, cook the pasta until al dente, about 7 minutes.

While the pasta cooks, combine the tomatoes, olives and parsley in a large serving bowl. Mix in the roasted vegetables. Drain the pasta, add it to the bowl, pour on the dressing and toss well. Stir in the feta or sprinkle it on top. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 365 calories; 11.4 grams protein; 17.6 grams fat; 43.2 grams carbohydrates; 17 mg cholesterol; 617 mg sodium; 3 mg dietary fiber.

"Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special"

Thursday, April 06, 2000

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