Indian summer -- that short reprieve from chilly autumn temperatures -- calls for lighter menus. Nothing too heavy or too summery, and definitely not complicated or time-consuming (who wants to be stuck in the kitchen when it's shirt-sleeve weather once again?). Consider a main-dish pasta salad: refreshing but just substantial enough, and, if you use fresh pasta, ready to eat in under 30 minutes.
Packaged in plastic bags or lidded tubs, fresh pasta in a variety of shapes and flavors can be found in deli or produce sections at supermarkets. It's highly perishable but keeps in your refrigerator for up to five days or for a month in the freezer.
To cook it, proceed as you would for dried pasta -- drop it into vigorously boiling, salted water (4 quarts for each 14 to 16 ounces of pasta). But here's the thing to keep in mind: Fresh pasta is done in 60 to 90 seconds, so after the first minute of cooking, taste-test it every 15 seconds or so to avoid a mushy texture. Fresh, frozen or dried, all pasta tastes best when it's "al dente," or offers a little resistance to the tooth.
Curried Prawn and Pasta Salad
1 pound medium prawns, peeled and deveined
2/3 cup white wine
2 cups rotelle pasta
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup minced celery
1/2 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons curry powder
lettuce leaves, for lining platter or salad plates
1 tablespoon chopped, toasted almonds
In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, place prawns and wine, and cook until prawns turn pink (about 2 minutes). Remove prawns and cut in half. Discard wine.
Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and refresh under cold water. In a large bowl, mix pasta with cooked prawns, pepper, celery, mayonnaise, lemon juice and curry powder. Chill 20 minutes. Arrange on a bed of lettuce and garnish with almonds.