Sunday, April 22, 2007

Ziti Salad

Serves 8 t0 10

This is my one hundredth post since I started my blog. Hard as it is for me to believe, I have not mentioned Lee Friedman yet. She is one of the greatest people I have ever known - a true mentor. When confronted with an awkward situation, I still think "What would Lee do?" So my hundredth post is dedicated to her.

I met Lee in Atlanta at an engagement party for Stephanie Sheats at the home of the Marchman's. I can still picture Lee wearing a floor-length red and white checked dress when Dick called me over to introduce me to Herb and Lee, another pair of transplanted New Yorkers. We talked about restaurants we missed and food products we couldn't get (veal cutlets, Italian sausage, etc.). We talked about the Guggenheim Museum and the Metropolitan Museum. We talked about how good it was to meet, and we were friends from that moment on. Dick and I were one of three couples that Lee felt she could make dinner plans with without first checking with Herb - a flattering thing, I assure you, because they were "a couple in demand." We were not.

We used to meet for dinner at an Italian restaurant called Alfredo's on Roswell Road. We would go there and eat delicious spumoni for dessert. Every time - every single time - we ate it, Lee and I would call our waiter over and ask how it was made. And every time - every single time - he would give us minute instructions about what to do. We would go home and do what he said. (Once we actually even bought three half-gallons of different flavors [vanilla, chocolate, strawberry] of supermarket brand ice cream.) It was never the same as Alfredo's. And we were each doing this in an 8-inch springform pan, so each time we did this, we had absolutely tons of layers of ice cream that we didn't even like. This literally went on for years. I don't think the waiter was keeping part of the recipe a secret; I just think there was some ephemeral thing that never quite worked for us.

I have so many stories and reminiscences about Lee, they would fill a book. Tragically, Lee died when she was fifty-four. Sixteen years later on my fifty-fifth birthday, I was acutely aware that I had lived longer than Lee. Every day she pops into my head one way or another. I will miss her forever. She was the most indomitable person I ever met, and I'm proud she called me her friend.

This is a recipe I got from Lee. She used to buy this pasta salad from The Store in Amagansett when she spent summers in East Hampton. She and her friends did everything they could to reproduce it (sound familiar?) without success until The Store Cookbook was published, and, lo and behold, there was the recipe with its secret ingredient, G. Washington Brown Bouillon Powder, published for all to see. I assure you this is much more successful than our attempts to recreate Alfredo's super spumoni! This dish is good for a summer barbecue or picnic when you have a lot of people to feed, and you're eating things like cold chicken and cole slaw or burgers from the grill.

1½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons oil
1 box penne rigate (the original recipe calls for ziti, but now I would use penne with ridges because it holds the dressing so well)
1/4 cup milk
1 red onion
2 tomatoes (preferably perfectly ripe - otherwise use the best grape or cherry tomatoes you can find)
6 sweet pickles (size of pickles depends on how much you love sweet pickles) or the equivalent amount of sweet pickle relish
2 small green peppers
1 large shallot
½ cup sour cream
1½ cups mayonnaise
2 packets G. Washington Brown Bouillon Powder (2 packets from a box, not 2 boxes)
3 grinds fresh pepper (black or white)
Dash of wine vinegar - red or white, your choice (I usually use red)
1 tablespoon sweet pickle juice (from the jar of pickles or relish)
A handful of roughly chopped fresh dill (this is an important ingredient)

Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water to which you have added the oil. (As you know, this is usually a no-no when cooking pasta, but for this recipe, you want to make sure it doesn't clump.) Cook until al dente.

Place the cooked pasta in a bowl, add 1/4 cup milk to thoroughly moisten the pasta, and toss.

Chop the onion, tomatoes, pickles, and peppers into ¼-inch cubes. Mince the shallot.

Beat the sour cream and mayonnaise together until creamy. Whisk in the vinegar and the pickle juice, then add the bouillon powder, salt to taste (remember the bouillon powder is salty), and the black or white pepper. Whisk again, and thin with a little milk, if necessary. Pour over the pasta. Add the shallot, tomatoes, pickles, and green peppers. Mix well.

Chill until serving time. Just before serving, cut fresh dill over the top with kitchen shears .


  1. What a lovely tribute to your friend. Congratulations on the 100th post!


  2. Hi, Mary,

    Thank you. It's wonderful to share food and wine with the people you love, and then even if all you're left with are the memories, you can linger over them as often as you like and refill your senses. I have recipe cards written in Lee's hand, which I truly treasure. She was a remarkable woman.

    I LOVE your site. It's delicious.


  3. Congratulations on your 100th post! That's a bloggy landmark to be sure. :)

    Ari (Baking and Books)

  4. Good morning, Ari,

    Thanks. By the way, I love both your Dorie Greenspan interview (you asked great questions) and the story about "The Hot Sauce Incident." Very funny. I am going to try your recipe (without the hot sauce!) since I am having a vegetarian friend over for dinner in the next couple of weeks.

    I notice that your cookbook collection includes The Breakfast Book. My Raised Waffle recipe comes from that book, and it is wonderful. Have you ever tried that recipe?

  5. What a lovely, lovely post. You have such a way of writing about the people you love. It's really heartwarming.


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