Grains can be a polarizing food, but whether you love them or hate them, we can all agree on one thing: boring grain dishes should be tossed out with the chaff. This week-long series is all about inventive, refreshing grain salads: full of flavor, and perfect for summer. If we have one basic goal here, it's to make believers out of naysayers, and give inspiration to those already converted.
Sure, whole-wheat pasta is healthy. It's also tasty, offering a bit more "chew" than the refined-starch variety. That extra texture is a plus in this chilled salad, which mixes grilled zucchini, briny Kalamata olives, tomatoes, salty feta, and basil, all of the ingredients dressed in a simple vinaigrette.
Be sure you cook the pasta only until it's al dente: you don't want it to be gummy or limp once chilled and tossed with the other ingredients. You can make it in advance, then drain it, toss it with oil to prevent sticking, and chill it in the refrigerator.
Most of the other ingredients for the salad can also be prepared in advance, so go ahead and grill the zucchini, chop the olives and tomatoes, and crumble the feta ahead of time. The herbs should be chopped just beforehand, though, for maximum flavor and freshness. This salad does hold up well for a few hours in the refrigerator, though I recommend adding the herbs at the last minute, and saving some of the vinaigrette to add later in case the salad soaks it up and becomes a bit dry.
If you want to bulk up the dish and eat it as a main course, try adding some grilled chicken or shrimp. Have some capers in the refrigerator? They'd be tasty, too. This salad is customizable, so knock yourself out.