When I was in college, I took several courses in Russian. I had never been to Russia, I didn’t have plans to travel there, I didn’t even know anyone Russian.
But I did have a roommate who had spent a semester in Russia teaching English to children. She was awesome. She taught me and another roommate how to say “I love to eat cheese” in Russian. Coolest thing ever!
She also taught me the perfect insult to say to my ex-boyfriend. I never used it to his face, but it was deliciously cathartic to sit around bad-mouthing him in Russian with my roommates.
So I did what any normal person would do. I took three semesters of Russian language, and a semester of Russian literature. I even ended up clustering (sort of a miniature minor) in Russian when I graduated. Totally random, and a great conversation starter.
I’ve forgotten most of what I learned in my Russian classes. But I still have a shelf of Russian novels in my room; I take them down and read them occasionally. And I still remember how to say “picking mushrooms in the forest,” which is apparently a favorite national pastime. I can see why. Mushrooms are awesome.
I like mushrooms when they’re raw, but I love them best when they’re sauteed with onions and a little salt and pepper. That’s how I chose to prepare them for this pasta salad.
Whole Wheat Pasta Salad
Makes 8-10 servings
10 oz uncooked whole wheat pasta
12 oz mushrooms, sliced
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 large bell pepper, diced
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
1/2 large cucumber, chopped
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, saute mushroom and onion in 1 tsp olive oil, plus salt and pepper to taste, until softened but not caramelized. Set pasta and mushroom/onion mixture aside while you slice and chop remaining vegetables.
Combine cooled pasta and mushrooms/onions in a large bowl with peppers, tomatoes, celery, and cucumber. Toss gently to combine.
In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients to make dressing. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Chill for at least a couple of hours to let flavors blend. Stir gently before serving.