Sunday, May 20, 2012

Cooking the Books: Mi Comida and Mexican Pasta Salad

My friend Di, who I met in college, is having a blog party where we post about a dish we cooked that was inspired by a book.  She gave us a heads up a few weeks ago and I racked my brain to think of something literary and cool.  I came up with ... nothing.

But T and I have been learning Spanish together and one of her first Spanish books was Mi Comida.  It's got a bunch of cute paper collages of food with the Spanish word for it.  Many of these words are ingredients in the Mexican Pasta Salad from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. Examples: los guisantes (peas) and los fideos (noodles).  Tenuous connection, I know :)

I've been trying to find something we can pack for T's lunch other than the sunflower seed butter on whole wheat sandwich we give her nearly every day and I thought this pasta salad might do the trick.  It's not "spicy" in the toddler sense, it has pasta and beans in it which she loves, and I figured I could sneak in a few veggies and some tofu as well. 

It also helped that I enlisted T in the cooking process, and she was a surprisingly good helper.  I had to stop her from eating the black beans and olives out of the bowl directly, but distracted her with a bunch of tofu cubes which she ate happily for the first time ever.

I modified the recipe to add peas, which I knew T would eat, and didn't add any tomatoes because I knew she wouldn't eat them.  I had to throw away the yellow bell pepper I planned to use because it was moldy (so sad!).  I added 4oz of extra firm high protein tofu cut into tiny cubes and a little extra olive oil because I'm not concerned about being low-fat.  I used the Barilla Plus higher protein pasta to sneak a little extra protein into all of us.

Best kitchen helper ever!

Mexican Pasta Salad
adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites

7.5 oz Barilla Plus Farfalle pasta
1c frozen corn
1c frozen peas
2 green onions, minced
1 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 4oz can sliced black olives, rinsed and drained
4-6 oz extra firm high protein tofu cut in tiny cubes
1/4c olive oil
juice of 1 small organic lime
juice of 1 organic lemon
3 tsp ground cumin
3 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/8 tsp black pepper

  1. Boil water in a large pot with some salt.  Cook the pasta for about 8 minutes, then add the frozen corn and peas, and cook for another minute or two after it comes back to a boil.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, combine the green onions, black beans, tofu, olives, olive oil, lemon juice, lime juice, cumin, cilantro, and pepper in a bowl large enough to hold the finished salad. Mix well and let stand at room temperature so the flavors can mingle nicely.
  3. Drain and rinse the pasta/veggies with cold water and let cool.
  4. Add the pasta, corn and peas to the bowl with the beans and tofu and mix well.  Taste again and add more cilantro and cumin to taste.  If it seems too dry, add a bit more olive oil.
  5. Chill in fridge and serve.  It tastes better after it has some time for the flavors to mix.
I bet this would also taste good with some fresh pico de gallo mixed in (either homemade or high quality store bought) but I can guarantee that my toddler won't eat it with tomatoes visible.

We eat this as a main course, but it would also work as a side dish for burgers or at a cookout.  It's great for packing in lunches because it tastes good at room temperature and doesn't require heating.

Thanks again to Di for hosting this blog event!


  1. Very cool! I'm not the most patient person when it comes to cooking with my girls. I have found that they're more likely to eat stuff when I get them involved with making it. And more interesting lunch box options are always a good thing!

    1. Yeah, I was pretty surprised when T wanted to eat the black beans, olives, and tofu while we were cooking. Usually those things are a hard sell, though every now and then she'll eat olives whole. Hard to tell with a toddler.

    2. B has loved black olives since she was very little. She once managed to get a can of sliced ones off the kitchen island because we didn't realize she could reach that high. She ate a large number before we caught her. =) G, on the other hand, won't touch them. =)

    3. That's awesome - "stealing" olives. I like to put them in T's lunch because she likes so few vegetables and I feel like the fat might keep her full a bit longer.

  2. Yumm! Sounds great, I'm going to have to try this! Of course I will have to disguise the tofu so the man-boy will eat it. hahaha!

    1. If you cut it small enough, they will barely notice! They might even think it's cheese :)

  3. I think I would love this...marking it to give it a try! Such a cute photo of your little helper!

    1. Thanks!! She had fun with this - we don't do enough cooking projects together!

  4. Your salad looks like a perfect spring/summer salad. I love to make dishes like this when it is too warm to have the oven on and it is always great to eat something cold when it is so hot outside. You have a very cute sou chef! :)


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