I’ll admit to being a sucker for grocery store deli counter salads. Tossed with mayo or mixed with vinaigrette they tempt me ruthlessly. (Whole Foods in particular makes a smoked mozzarella salad I’m smitten with.) It takes all the willpower I can to wheel my cart by without stopping for a pint. Because of this, I try to always take the opportunity to make them at home.
Homemade versions provide the perfect opportunities for healthier tweaks – swapping out white flour pasta for whole wheat, yogurt for a little mayo, or simply upping the amount of veggies. They’re also generally less expensive since you aren’t paying the premium for someone else to make it for you. Over the course of having this blog I’ve shared some of my favorites like Honey Mustard Cashew & Tofu Pasta Salad, Almost My Father’s Pasta Salad, and Verde Pasta Salad with Crab. All taste best, in my opinion, when enjoyed as part of a warm summer’s day picnic, preferably with a cool glass of lemonade in hand. However, if you’re like me and impatient for spring’s thaw to give way to a hot and hazy summer, they are still pretty tasty these days as well.
One salad I’m amazed it’s taken me so long to share is Turkey Dried Cherry Pasta Salad. Studded with almonds and dried cherries and tossed with a tangy-sweet dressing it’s a mainstay on the menu of D’Amico and Sons, a small chain of gourmet Italian cafes that I used to frequent when living in Minnesota. I would frequently visit the restaurant to grab the salad to go for lunch at my various college internships and first started making it at home around the same time. I still enjoy making it to this day. While I’ll admit my enthusiasm for different recipes comes and goes, this recipe has a kind of timelessness and understated elegance that it continually holds my attention. It also doesn’t hurt that with a little prep work it comes together quickly. In a pinch, I grab roast turkey from the deli and chopped celery and onion from my grocery store salad bar to make this even easier.
Inspired by D’Amico & Sons
POPPY SEED DRESSING
-½ cup light mayonnaise
-1 cup fat free yogurt
-1 tablespoons dijon mustard
-2 tablespoons powdered sugar
-1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
-1 tablespoon water
-¼ teaspoon black pepper, ground fine
-¼ teaspoon poppy seeds
-1 teaspoons kosher salt
-½ lb. rotelle pasta
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-8 ounces turkey
-3 ounces dried cherries
-½ cup yellow onions, medium diced
-½ cup celery, medium diced
-½ cup toasted whole almonds
Using a whisk mix together all the ingredients for the dressing until smooth and well incorporated; set aside.
Cook the pasta al dente, drain, toss in olive oil and cool completely.
Combine pasta, turkey, cherries, celery and half of the almonds in a large bowl. Mix in dressing to desired consistency. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.
Transfer to a serving dish and top with the remaining almonds.