All right, maybe ‘pestoey’ isn’t really a word, but from what I’ve seen out there in the blogosphere, it’s perfectly fine to make up words that describe, in better terms than standard English, what you are trying to convey. It’s really amazing how many words are not in the dictionary – just try playing an online word scramble and you’ll see all sorts of letter combinations that sound like they could be right, but, alas, don’t pass the dictionary test. But enough for the English lesson, I must move on.
We’re finally experiencing a break in the weather here in the Northwest. After some very hot days, followed by a run of cooler, but very humid, weather, I’m finally starting to think about baking again. With the deadline for Daring Bakers rapidly approaching, that’s a good thing. In the meantime, I’ve been working with ‘cool’ recipes – those that require minimal or no time on the stove or in the oven. Such was the past weekend when we spent last Saturday at a small family gathering. We were told we didn’t need to bring anything, but I just can’t show up empty-handed. I flipped through my warm weather recipes and set my eyes upon one of my favorites: Tortellini Pesto Salad ala Haggen.
If you’re not from Oregon or Washington State, you probably have not heard of Haggen. Haggen is a Northwest based grocery/pharmacy chain that was started in Bellingham, Washington in 1933. While most of the locations are found in Washington, they began to expand into Oregon in the last decade. For those around the U.S., you can think of Haggen as similar to Albertson’s or Safeway, but with a more ‘gourmet’ feel. The stores are less antiseptic that the bigger chain grocery stores and the folks that work there are some of the most helpful you will find. Their deli section houses a fine selection of cold and hot foods from a nice olive bar to Panini sandwiches, Chinese food, fresh deli meats and salads.
One of our favorite selections has been the Tortellini Pesto Salad. Any time I saw this dish in the case, I would bring some home. Primarily a side dish, it actually does well in the main dish slot, often making for a tasty lunch or dinner. Unfortunately, this pesto pasta goodie is often sold out. Frustrated by this, I wrote Haggen a couple of years ago requesting the recipe. I’ve requested recipes from a number of places in the past and I’m used to one answer: ‘No’. I understand. When you’re in business to sell things, you don’t want to give away your secrets. So, I politely ask, and if they say ‘no’, I thank them and move on to try and duplicate the recipe on my own – sometimes with less than stellar results. Imagine my surprise when I received a very kind email response containing the recipe I had requested! They were very kind in their response and were all too happy to share their recipe.
The recipe itself was written for a large batch, which makes sense considering how much they must sell when they make it available. I recalculated the recipe for a smaller batch and began to make it for family and friends. Let me tell you, this is no slouch salad. It’s unique in comparison to the typical Italian Dressing, Rotini Pasta adorned salads typically found on a buffet table. This dish never fails to please. I’ve shared it with only a few others to date, mainly because I want to be the one lauded with praise when I bring the star dish of the party! That probably sounds a bit snotty, which I don’t mean to be, because I do really love to cook for enjoyment of others. And so, for that reason, I have chosen to share with you what Haggen was kind enough to share with me. I’ve debated whether or not to share this recipe, but since anyone can request it and get it themselves, I’m going to do it here and give credit where credit is due. So, in fairness to the originator of this recipe, please be sure to stop by your nearest neighborhood Haggen the next time you’re in the Northwest, give them a try, I’m sure you’ll be pleased.
Click here to see a copy of this recipe on my site. I’ve adjusted the amounts down to a more manageable level as well as included my favorite recipe for homemade pesto, should you prefer to make your own.