Every one of these potluck staples gets better as it sits, tastes great at room temperature -- and offers up a little something different.
By Lynn AndrianiOprah.com
The Salad Where Every Forkful Is Perfect
The Jewels Of New York
Pasta shape may be one of the most important aspects of the dish in question, but it's one we often gloss right over when we're just grabbing whatever's in the pantry. This rendition, though, is a terrific example of how pasta shape can make or break a salad. It has you use orecchiette, a pasta the size of a thumbprint that's shaped like a cupped hand and perfect for catching the dish's other components -- lemon zest, garlic, tomatoes, cannellini beans, chopped hazelnuts and torn mint leaves -- so every bite delivers maximum flavor and texture.
No-cook noodles that pack fewer than 20 calories per serving may sound impossible -- until you meet shirataki noodles. These are springy when served al dente and made from Japanese white yams (look for the noodles near the tofu in your grocery store). The strands are very mild tasting, so this recipe has you toss them with a creamy, Southeast Asian-inspired sauce that packs a fiery punch; as well as a verdant mixture of fresh herbs, including basil and cilantro.
If you're cooking dinner outside over the coals, odds are this orzo salad will complement your main course nicely. It includes yellow squash and zucchini (and, if you'd like, cherry tomatoes) that you grill for about eight minutes, until tender. Their subtle smoky taste is a nice pairing for any meat or fish cooked using the same method.
Tahini, a Middle Eastern paste made from ground sesame seeds, isn't just for hummus. Having the consistency of smooth peanut butter, tahini blends well with olive oil, soy sauce, honey and garlic; it also makes a savory dressing that can stand up to whole grain pasta, which has a more robust flavor. The other ingredients in this healthy, vibrant salad: cucumber, red bell pepper, yogurt and a squirt of lemon juice.
A tangle of angel-hair pasta; thin strips of sweet red bell pepper; half-moons of refreshing cucumber; and, bright green, crisp-tender edamame are reasons enough to love this main-course noodle salad. But what makes it sing is its dressing, which, in addition to the usual soy sauce, sesame oil and Dijon mustard, includes rich, syrupy molasses, an ingredient that adds fantastic flavor and also helps the sauce stick to every ingredient. Finally, a smattering of sliced scallions and sesame seeds on top gives the dish even more color and texture.
This bright and colorful sauce is delicious with fresh, or canned, plum tomatoes; the one thing we insist upon is making it with fresh basil, since its peppery-sweet, vibrant taste just doesn't come through if you use the dried version of the herb. The other element here is garlic; don't skimp on it, since when you cook it in olive oil it mellows and loses any of its harshness. <br><br> <strong>Get the recipe: <a href="http://www.oprah.com/food/Quick-Pomodoro-Sauce-Recipe" target="_blank">Quick Pomodoro Sauce</a></strong>