Next to pasta, Middle Eastern food is my absolute favorite food on this planet. It’s the perfect balance of carbs, protein, veggies and spices that tastes comforting yet light. I also like that a lot of it happens to be vegetarian/vegan, since I’m not much of a meat eater. I eat it so much that I often wonder if I lived in the Middle East in a past life.
I came up with this recipe when I had an abundance of Middle Eastern ingredients – hummus, tahini, chickpeas, cucumber, tomato, cabbage, pickled turnips, etc. – in my fridge and needed to use them up. I didn’t have any pita, so I decided to combine these condiments with my other favorite food, pasta, and make a pasta salad. I couldn’t stop eating it. It was like a deconstructed falafel, only with pasta instead of falafel – a.k.a. my dream meal. I recently found myself with a lot of the ingredients sitting in my fridge again, so I decided to recreate the recipe and add it to this blog. It also happens to be vegan!
The colors are just a few short of a full rainbow, as you can see, which is another thing I love about this dish. This is without the dressing added, but I had to snap a couple photos of all the colors present.
The dressing has a creamy texture and taste without using any dairy, thanks to the tahini base. The vinegar and lemon make it tangy, and the cumin, dill and garlic give it just the flavor boost it needs. If you don’t mind including some non-vegan ingredients, I’d recommend adding feta cheese and/or shredded chicken.
- 4 oz. penne pasta (I used whole wheat)
- 1 cup shredded purple or green cabbage
- 1/4 cup chickpeas
- 1/4 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 cup sliced cucumber
- 1/4 cup pickled turnips*
- 3 pickled hot chili peppers, sliced into rings (Mezetta is my favorite)
- 1 tablespoon tahini
- 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, or 2 teaspoons dried dill
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta for 10-12 minutes. In the meantime, prep the rest of the pasta salad ingredients.
- Drain the pasta when it's done and run it under cold water to cool.
- In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the pasta salad.
- In a small jar or Tupperware container, combine the ingredients for the dressing minus the salt and pepper. Close the lid tightly and shake until combined. If you want it less thick, add more vinegar to thin it out. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss thoroughly. Eat at room temperature, or chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
- Makes three servings, so plan to have leftovers.
- *You can find these peppers at Middle Eastern or kosher markets. If you can’t find them, substitute with a different spicy pickled vegetable of your choice.