Short Order: Keeping those shoppers in line

Pasta salad looks pretty, but is often boring. The secret, according to my friend, is to be liberal with those ingredients that add flavor.

Visiting a local supermarket, I came upon a long stand in the store's center divided into multi-sections displaying every type of nut, seed and dried fruit, which Israelis are inordinately fond of. Since I once wrote a column called "Free market, chomp while you shop" about the native habit of helping oneself liberally to just these kinds of treats while trundling around the store, I was gratified to see some printed signs posted along the length of the stand: "Pay first, eat later." It caused me some amusement, however, to discover that the signs had been carefully pinned up on the side selling packaged nuts, etc. - leaving the other seductive, fill-your-own-bag side unguarded against the predations of the hand-to-mouth crowd. I had a flashback to my school-days, when a teacher supervising an exam and bothered by noise in the corridor hung up a large sign reading "Quiet - Examination in Progress"... on the inside of the classroom door. PASTA SALAD looks pretty, but is often boring. The secret, according to my friend Esther Hecht, is to be liberal with those ingredients that add flavor. Here's how she made a large and yummy bowlful for a family dinner: "I boiled a 500-gram package of elbow macaroni. The directions said to boil it for 12 minutes, which is too long. Ten, perhaps even less, would have been more than enough. "I chopped, finely, a red pepper and a green one, a couple of cucumbers pickled in vinegar and half a red onion and added them; also a couple of stalks of finely chopped celery. I used olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a slightly spicy prepared mustard. You need much larger quantities of vinegar and mustard than you think because the macaroni is rather tasteless. I threw in a bit of minced dill. A lot would have been better. "The higher the ratio of vegetables to macaroni, the better the salad, so I could have doubled the amount of vegetable. Nevertheless, it was good. "The macaroni seems to 'drain' the flavor from the vinegar and the mustard, so if you want it to be well-flavored you have to add quite a lot. Note: "I didn't rinse the noodles. I strained them, then added olive oil and stirred until they were coated. I added the balsamic vinegar and mustard while the macaroni was hot. You could add chopped almonds or walnuts, or perhaps pine nuts." DARK GREEN mangoes are in the stores now, and I think they're the best ones. Judith Crown of Hashmonaim wrote to say she was frustrated at not finding a decent mango chutney in Israel, so she invented her own. "It keeps very well in the fridge. I usually make a batch in the summer, and it lasts all year." ROYAL MANGO CHUTNEY 1 kg. fresh (pitted) mango 2.5 cups of brown sugar (half-demerara, half dark-brown) 1 cup white wine vinegar 2 level tsp. ginger 1/2 level tsp. curry powder 1/2 level tsp. black pepper 1 large onion 1 large apple 1 cup water You need about 3 jam/jelly jars, depending on their size, and about two hours from start to finish, including preparation and bottling time. Boil the jars and lids in water, then keep them in a low-temperature oven until you are ready to fill them. Cut the apple and mango into smallish chunks, and chop the onion. Put it all into a pot with the other ingredients and simmer gently, uncovered, on low heat for an hour, stirring frequently. For the next 20-30 minutes the mixture will need constant stirring to make sure it does not burn as the color darkens and the liquid thickens and bubbles faster. When the chutney is rich brown and the mixture bubbling rapidly although the heat is very low, it is ready to be poured into the jars and covered immediately with the lids. READERS responded with some nostalgia to my recent recipe for kasha. Rachel Man wrote that "the kasha and onion mixture can serve as a stuffing for chicken, peppers or zucchini; or be seasoned and mixed with a grated potato, egg and bread crumbs (and, optionally, crushed garlic), then shaped into patties, cooked in the microwave-oven and put briefly in the toaster-oven, under the broiler, to brown." Marlene Levy suggested dissolving a chicken or vegetable bouillon cube in the boiling water before adding it to the kasha, and added that her 13-year-old cat had loved kasha as a kitten, hence his name - Kashi.