Pasta Salad with Avocado Tzatziki

Pasta Salad with Avocado Tzatziki

I have some bad habits I really need to break.

Note:  being cured from soup addiction is not one of them.

I don’t check my tire pressure often enough. I don’t rinse out my mixing bowls right away, so things get crusty. (I know, ew.)  I have paperwork clutter-blindness (I can step right over the catalog that fell to the floor a week ago without noticing).

But the one habit I feel compelled to tackle immediately is my reliance on the big box grocery stores, like Kroger, Whole Foods, Fresh Market.

As is absolutely their plan, I go in with a simple list of items for a dinner for two, and come out with a bag of stuff that costs $50. I’m a compulsive “stocker.” It goes something like this:

Parmesano-Reggiano is on the list, but right next to the parm wheel is a sampling display of cubed Bellavitano Merlot and, “OMG, I must have this even though I have no planned use for it.”  ($7)

“Am I out of Kalamata olives?”  I have no idea, I haven’t needed olives in months, so — just in case! — I grab a jar (only to get home and discover, of course, plenty more in the pantry). ($4)

“What about farro? Is the jar empty? I think it is!”  (It wasn’t — $6)

“I should really make more fruit smoothies.”  (Frozen peaches, frozen blueberries, $6. I hate my blender, and I prefer green smoothies. So I make neither because I hate my blender.)

Four little items, but it’s half the bill. Things I didn’t need.

They win, the big-boxers. It’s their raison d’être, after all, to separate me from my money, and to not only make it seem like a good idea — the overspending — but that it was my idea all along. (If accused of wily doings, the marketers and floor merchandisers would simply clutch their pearls in alarm and declare, Why, we didn’t force you to buy the merlot-infused cheese. You did that all on your own without a push from even the cheese monger.”)

And they’d be right. This problem is all me-me-me. I over-buy at these huge they-have-it-all-so-I-want-it-all stores; and I, alone, am to blame. Curses!

I climbed into my car Saturday morning, with my grocery list safe and snug in my shopping list app (which is configured to match Kroger’s store layout, natch), and decided on impulse that I just wouldn’t shop at Kroger that day. (During the height of summer, this is much easier because the farmers’ markets are in full swing, with vegetables, meat, dairy, eggs, and other yummies. At the end of April, however, the offerings are asparagus and tender greens — excellent, but not on my list.)

Instead, I pulled out of my driveway, turning right instead of left, and headed to the small, family-owned market that is two traffic lights and two more turns away from my house. I shop here often — they have an amazing selection of international foods and locally-sourced (when possible), fairly-priced produce — but usually it’s just a quickie stop on the way to a big-box.

Today, this was it. One stop. No extra jar of olives (not on the list). No wedge of gourmet cheese (also absent from list). Only what I needed for dinner: fixin’s for pasta salad, and brats for sandwiches.

And you know what? I totally did it. Twenty-seven bucks and three bags later, I had Saturday’s lunch, dinner and part of Sunday’s dinner tucked neatly in the trunk. It felt like such an accomplishment, breaking that big-box, over-spend habit. (And I shaved about an hour off the morning’s errands to boot.) I rushed home to get started on the pasta salad (plus the shortbread from the last post), thrilled how the morning worked out. Here’s Saturday’s dinner:

Pasta with Avocado Tzatziki - Radishes

At Casa SoupAddict, dinner isn’t dinner without something being pulled out of the ground or plucked from a vine. Over the winter, it might be herbs or carrots or leeks. Today, it’s radishes. Beautiful, peppery radishes. Pink Beauties on the left; Cincinnati Markets on the right. There will be lots and lots of radish slices in the pasta salad.

Pasta with Avocado Tzatziki

Red onions pickle in vinegar for a spell to tamp down their bite. Perfect radish slices emerge from the mandolin with digits and skin intact [miracle].  An avocado is mashed with a little salt and lemon juice before being mixed with greek yogurt, a bit of mayo, some grated cukes, a little more lemon juice and vinegar, plus generous portions of fresh dill.

Pasta with Avocado Tzatziki

Stir in onions, radishes and pasta. Refrigerate. Try not to sneak test tastes. (Or at least, try not to get caught.)

Pasta with Avocado Tzatziki

And for the main course … brats with cole slaw, honey mustard and muenster cheese grilled on a good Bavarian soft pretzel (purchased at the small bakery next to the market). I’m probably the only blogger on the planet who did not post a grilled cheese something during April, but when I saw this creation on, I knew it was in my immediate future.

I can’t wait for this weekend — I already have the menu planned and shopping for it means a stop at the nearby farmers’ market (which opened last weekend) for strawberries and (hopefully) rhubarb, followed by Country Fresh Market for the rest.

Ah, freedom from bad habits.

Well, one down, several [ahem – many] to go ….

Karen xoxo

Pasta Salad with Avocado Tzatziki

1/2 small red onion, diced
1 tablespoon vinegar
12 ounces shaped pasta, your choice (I used orecchiette)
1 medium avocado, peeled and cubed
1 lemon
1 heaping cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup mayo
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, grated and drained (use a whole cuke when in season)
1 tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced

1. Place the onions and vinegar in a small bowl and let sit while you prepare the dish (this reduces the sharp bite of the raw onion).

2. Prepare the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water, and set aside.

3. In a medium mixing bowl, mash the avocado with a squeeze of lemon juice and several pinches of salt.

4. Stir in the yogurt, mayo, cucumbers, champagne vinegar, sugar, another good squeeze of lemon juice and mix well. Drain the onions (discard the vinegar) and incorporate them, plus the radishes and dill, into the dressing. Taste, and add salt to your liking, keeping in mind that the flavors of the dressing will strengthen as the salad rests in the fridge. Start with a 1/2 teaspoon and go from there.

5. Place the cooled pasta in a large serving bowl, and fold in the avocado tzatziki dressing, taking care not to mangle the pasta. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to allow the flavors to develop. (If the salad is too stiff or dry at serving time, add small amounts of milk or cold water, stirring to loosen the pasta and the dressing.)

Prep Time: 30 minutes       Cook time: 10 minutes       Yield: 6 generous servings
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  1. Darlynne says:

    Alas, we don’t have the variety that you do in grocery stores, so Trader Joe’s is mine for just about everything and Winco (a local, employee-owned store) provides produce until the farmers’ markets are back in business.

    Your recipe sounds delicious, I’d never thought of putting those ingredients together. Thanks!

  2. I tend to like to support the local merchants, even if they do have extreme markups to meet their obligations.

    It’s funny – a new place opened up near here recently. They have this Great Harvest Honey Wheat bread that is phenomenal but it’s $5 for a 2lb loaf. So one day I’m in there and one of the owners is showing me their POS system. He showed me item management and I was right, they double costs.

    What they do is source a lot of their inventory locally as in the State of Rhode Island. They had these absolutely delicious sea scallops once but haven’t since. I hope they get them in again. I just lightly seasoned them and seared them. Yum!

  3. Sigh, I just read an announcement toaday that the Albany area is getting a Whole Foods sometime in 2013 (the closest one to my house is 100 miles away – now it will only be 40 miles away). It is a dangerous place, for sure…

    That is one lovely salad & even better that you “foraged” from your own back yard to finish it off. I have radish envy.

  4. yes, right now, one cannot have too many ways to prepare radishes. I’m cooking them a lot right now, not just eating them raw like “normally”. they were good in a primavera type pasta dish last night. (we call that particular store “whole paycheck” around here!)

  5. I love Whole Foods…we don’t have one very close to us but when I visit my son, I visit the one that is less than a mile from his house! That store can be dangerous! Your visit sounds like mine! This salad looks like a winner and I have already printed it! Can’t wait to give it a try!

  6. Wonderful post . . . . I know of few people (Mr. Rosemary excluded) who can go into a store (for me, it’s any store) and get only what’s on the list. Temptations and bargains tempt. What a great salad, too. Very creative. I won’t be able to trust myself with a mandoline just yet, though.

  7. Ha, I’m still dependent on big box stores, but that’s a force of habit. I grew up buying from Wal-Mart!

  8. “At Casa SoupAddict, dinner isn’t dinner without something being pulled out of the ground or plucked from a vine.”
    -What an amazing opportunity! I don’t have a speck of garden, and have been Freud-alistically avoiding picking up dirt to even put in the three pots I’ve set aside for herbs, oh, 6 months ago. Sigh. This is more a case of a lack of a good habit, wouldn’t you say? I’m working on it… :)
    And great site, in case you haven’t heard that in a while!

  9. I can relate to your whole post but am in no way authorized to give you ANY kind of advice, since I just brought 17 bottles (yes, I counted them!) of extracts and spices all the way from Wash DC to Buenos Aires in my bag. How´s that for going into Whole Foods and overstocking? Your pasta looks good!

  10. This looks incredibly refreshing and I love the use of everyday ingredients to create this lovely recipe.

  11. Finally made this on Wednesday and loved it even more than I thought I would!! Thanks for the great recipe that can be easily tweaked with whatever fresh veggies you have on hand. Those are always the best. Keep ’em coming. ~N

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