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When I heard a recent news report that Americans throw out about 40 percent of their food each year, I cringed with recognition. I feel so guilty when I let a cucumber or zucchini wrinkle in the bottom of the vegetable drawer, let sweet potatoes sprout long curling roots, or allow perfectly good cheddar cheese grow green with fuzz. I don’t have the money to waste on food I don’t eat, yet I still let these things happen. Shame on me.

So it was in the spirit of repentance and conservation that I improvised this pasta salad, which served to rescue a half-head of broccoli from being snubbed completely and saved a last bit of feta from the garbage can. Plus, it tasted so delicious that I cheered my culinary genius—until I ate the last serving so fast I gave myself a stomachache. Clearly I’m not a genius about everything.

Penne Broccoli Salad
Makes 4-6 side dish servings

2 cups penne pasta (I used rainbow penne)
2 cups broccoli florets, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
fresh basil, chopped, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
roasted sunflower seeds, hulled (optional)

Prepare penne according to the package directions. Add broccoli florets to the boiling water & pasta in the final two minutes of the cooking time. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and bring the temperature down.

In a large serving or storage bowl, mix feta cheese and vinegar with a whisk until the cheese breaks down. Whisk in olive oil, yogurt, dried oregano and salt and pepper.

Add well-drained pasta and broccoli to the dressing and stir to coat. Add chopped basil and mix to distribute. Top individual servings with a tablespoon of roasted sunflower seeds for a delicious crunch!

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