This is superb for a hot summer’s day because two of the main ingredients—the cucumbers and tomatoes—are used raw, helping to make the salad especially crisp and refreshing. Good olive oil is key here; it is a major component in the dressing.
Don’t make this in advance. In fact, don’t even think about it. The point of using raw vegetables and lots of mint is that it is fresh tasting and at their peak flavor, which means that they should also be at room temperature.
At Mangia, we like to make this with tortiglioni, a narrow rigatoni. If you can find it, try it. Otherwise, the penne works just fine.
5 large ripe beefsteak tomatoes
3 large cucumbers
3 garlic cloves
1 cup packed mint leaves
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried hot pepper flakes
1 ½ pounds penne or tortiglioni
½ cup pitted kalmata olives
1 pound feta cheese
Wash, core, and chop the tomatoes into ½-inch cubes.
Peel the cucumbers, quarter lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Cut each piece in thirds, and slice lengthwise into thin silvers. Put the silvers in a bowl of cold water.
Peel, trim and mince the garlic. Rinse the mint leaves, pat them dry, and coarsely chop.
In a small skillet, cook the garlic in the olive oil over low heat, stirring until softened, but do not let it brown. Add the pepper flakes and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Then blend in the vinegar.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, stir to separate, and cook over high heat about 10 minutes, until al dente. (Or follow the cooking directions on the package.) Drain the pasta in a colander. To prevent the pasta from sticking together, spread it out on a large baking sheet or platter and let it cool, about 15 minutes. Cover and hold at room temperature for up to 3 hours.
Drain the cucumbers.
Turn the pasta into a large ceramic serving bowl. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, olives, and seasoned olive oil. Toss well until the pasta is uniformly shiny. Crumble the feta into the salad, and toss to columbine.