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Thursday, Dec 18, 2014
Food & Dining

Summer’s last hurrah


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I popped into my local Publix just before closing time on Labor Day, and something there kind of disturbed me. I saw a bunch of little worker bees setting up a big Halloween display, complete with smiling pumpkins, bags of candy corn and a ton of those yellow, orange and brown fake autumn leaves. Halloween? Seriously? It was still LABOR DAY, for crying out loud! Technically, it isn’t even fall until Sept. 22.

Every year, the gap between holiday seasons gets shorter and shorter — so much so that last year, the Halloween displays morphed right into Christmas ones, skipping over Thanksgiving entirely. And by Jan. 2, the supermarkets were awash in a pink-and-red sea of hearts and flowers.

It got me thinking: Why is everyone always in such a hurry these days? Why can’t we just slow down a little and appreciate the now?

Over the next few days, I couldn’t help but notice the onslaught of “pumpkin” posts streaming through my Facebook feed. They seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. Pumpkin lattes. Pumpkin pancakes. Pumpkin lasagne (yes, really). And, let’s not forget the ubiquitous pumpkin bread. A friend of mine called it the “Pumpkin-pocalypse.”

The point is that I’m not ready for pumpkin yet. Or, butternut squash. Or, roasted Brussels sprouts. Nor am I ready for long-simmering cauldrons of hearty, meaty soups. And, why should I be? It’s still a steamy 90 degrees outside. I don’t want anything to stick to my ribs just yet.

So when I sat down to think about which recipe to share with you today, I decided to squeeze out one last week of summertime with this cool and light Presto Pesto Shrimp Pasta Salad. It’s like summer’s last hurrah!

This dish is super quick and easy to prepare, making it a great choice for busy weeknight dinners. It’s also the perfect thing to bring along to a backyard barbecue or picnic at the beach. Plus, with those brightly colored flecks of veggies, it looks so … summery!

The dressing can be whisked together in the time it takes for your pasta to cook. I use a store-bought pesto from the refrigerator aisle at Publix and frozen, precooked shrimp. You could add cooked chicken or tuna instead of shrimp, or leave it out altogether for a vegetarian dish.

Presto Pesto Shrimp Pasta Salad

Serves 8 as a side, or 4 as a main dish.

1 pound bowtie pasta

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

1 small red onion, diced

§ each red, yellow and green bell pepper, diced

§ cup black olives, sliced

1 pound cooked salad shrimp, thawed

¼ cup fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces

1 cup prepared refrigerated pesto sauce

§ cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

§ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until tender but still a little firm to the bite. Drain well and mix in a large bowl with olive oil. Add tomatoes, onion, peppers, olives, shrimp and basil. Set aside while you make the dressing.

Whisk pesto, mayonnaise, lemon juice and Parmesan together in a small bowl. Add to the pasta salad mixture and toss until thoroughly combined. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Find more amazingly easy recipes at Susan Filson’s blog, stickygooeycreamychewy.com.

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