June is my family’s favorite time of the year.  For my kids it signifies school is out and the beach and pool are open.  For me it means the farmers market is in full swing, my vegetable garden is really starting to take, and our annual family vacation is right around the corner.  While we seem to have simply bypassed spring in Chicago and moved straight into summer, you wouldn’t notice it by looking at my backyard.  I am blessed to have a husband and children that love taking part and making our garden spectacular.  In fact, this year for Mother’s Day my gift was something I have wanted for years….a composter.  Together as a family we help reduce our waste by throwing the peels, cores, and other parts of our homegrown vegetables into the composter instead of the trash. The next step is to use what’s in the bin as soil for our garden…we have yet to get there though, one step at a time!

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Tonight, my team at Berghoff Catering is putting on a backyard party for a dear friend. As we have been busy planning the menu, buying tiki torches, and praying we get some sort of breeze, I am reminded yet again why I love this time of the year.  It is perfect for backyard parties and picnics!  Tomorrow morning I plan on going to our local farmers’ market with my middle daughter, Sarah (as she is the green thumb in the family) and buying assorted vegetables to last until ours are ready to be picked.  Luckily our herb garden is in full bloom and ready to be added to any of our favorite dishes.  As I think about the fresh veggies we’ll have and the fact that it’s the perfect time of year for a backyard picnic, I am inspired to make one of my favorite summer picnic dishes, Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad.  Not only is it fresh, healthy, and gluten free, but it can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for when your family or guests are ready to enjoy it.  Cheers to the sunshine, summer vacation, and fresh food from my garden to yours.

Roasted Vegetable Pasta Salad

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 6 cups cooked penne pasta (1 ½ pound dried), substitute gluten-free pasta if desired
  • ½ cup roasted/grilled and large diced eggplant
  • ½ cup roasted/grilled sliced yellow squash
  • ½ cup roasted/grilled red onion slices
  • ½ cup roasted/grilled halved asparagus
  • ½ cup roasted/grilled bell pepper strips
  • ½ cup frozen green peas, defrosted and drained
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons sliced scallions
  • ¾ - 1 cup any Berghoff salad dressing
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and ground pepper
  • Crumbled feta cheese, for garnish
  • Pitted, sliced kalamata olives, for garnish

Instructions

This salad can be made up to 4 hours ahead of time. In a large bowl, mix together the pasta, roasted vegetables, peas, pine nuts, and scallions. Toss with ¾ to 1 cup of your favorite Berghoff salad dressing. Stir in the basil and toss a bit more. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Let stand at room temperature at least 1 hour before serving.

Just before serving, garnish the salad with the feta cheese and kalamata olives.

http://www.theberghoff.com/2011/06/03/summer-is-here-to-stay-hopefully/