|Karla Carney with her pasta salad. (Photos: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
RUDOLPH - Karla Carney is known far and wide for her cucumber dill pasta salad.
But honesty compels her to admit that she begged the recipe from a local friend and co-worker.
"I first had this recipe at a graduation party the year before my oldest son graduated from high school. I was looking for things that maybe I could have for his party the following year."
Theresa Calcamuggio, her co-worker in the surgery department at Wood County Hospital, where both then worked, prepared the salad for her daughter's party in 2007.
"When I tasted this I knew I would be fixing this" in 2008, Carney said.
Since then, "I have made it for many family gatherings and it's now kind of my signature dish I take a lot of places."
Last weekend, in fact, she made it for a family reunion in Cincinnati. Present were more than 30 people from as far away as Chicago and Detroit and "everybody loved it!"
The salad's fans, she discovered, "just think it's really delicious because it's really refreshing with the cucumber in it. And I think the dill really makes it, because it's such a different flavor."
There is a distinct sweet note in the pasta because of its eight-hour refrigerated marinade time, which wonderfully balances the cucumber and dill.
"It's so easy, too! If you cut the cucumber up while the pasta's boiling, it's not more than 20 or 30 minutes" active preparation.
Since the pasta salad recipe is not originally hers, Carney wants to share a second recipe as well - for the perfect salsa she and husband Norm have created.
"I looked a long time on the Internet before I came across this one. I made the recipe my own by adjusting a few of the ingredients according to my family's taste," she explained. "The cumin is the key ingredient in this recipe and if you don't want your salsa hot you can adjust the amount of cumin you use."
She believes this recipe is a prime example of how a single ingredient added or omitted can make all the difference.
"I have canned salsa before but never used a recipe containing cumin. I will never not use it again! The flavor of it is so good."
Carney was also eager to find a way to make her salsa more the consistency of restaurant salsa.
"I had always made it chunky style and just wasn't happy with it. My mom gave me my grandmother's antique food grinder - which she was using for decoration in her kitchen! I ran all the vegetables through this to grind them up, then drained off the excess juice. This made the salsa the perfect consistency. It's not chunky but not too watery either."
The old grinder "is cast iron and it's got a hand crank on it, so I think it'll probably last awhile," which is good since "they don't make stuff like that. If I lose it or it breaks, oh boy, I'm sunk!"
The added bonus of Carney's salsa is "we grew the tomatoes, green peppers and jalapeno peppers in our garden. My husband helps me with the canning. He actually taught me how to can!"
A native of Hamilton, Ohio - near Cincinnati, she is city born and bred.
"We moved to the area about 14 years ago" and live in the rural Bowling Green house in which her husband grew up," says Carney. "His family always had a big garden and canned when he was growing up, so he has an interest in keeping the tradition going."
She estimates the couple put up close to 70 pints of salsa this fall, from a quarter-acre-plus garden.
A registered nurse, these days the mother of sons 19 and 17 works at The Surgery Center at Regency Park in Toledo.
As simple as the cucumber dill pasta salad is, the salsa is a bit more work, and best saved for weekends or vacation.
"The salsa takes probably about four hours."
But the end result is so worth the time, says Carney. "I've heard people say it's addicting!"
And she figures more than a few Cook's Corner readers will appreciate the bonus recipe.
"There's a lot of people that still can around here; there's a lot of entries at the fair."
8 cups of tomatoes
2 1/2 cups of chopped onions
1 1/2 cups of chopped green peppers
1 cup of chopped jalapeno peppers
6 cloves of minced garlic
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup of vinegar
1 (15 oz.) can of tomato sauce
1 (12 oz.) can of tomato paste
2 tsp. of cumin
2 tsp. of pepper
1/8 cup of canning salt (not table salt)
After washing tomatoes blanch for 2-3 minutes then put into cold water bath until cool enough to handle. Tomato skins will wrinkle up and be easy to peel off. You can only do a small amount of tomatoes at a time so you will have to repeat this process several times. Mix all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a slow boil for app. 10 minutes. Seal in jars and cook in hot water bath for 10 minutes or use pressure canner.
* This batch will make about 7-8 pints.
Cucumber dill pasta salad
1 lb. box Rotini Noodles - cooked
1 lg. cucumber - diced
1 24-oz. jar Marzetti slaw dressing
1 pint half and half
2 tbsp. dill weed
Mix all ingredients together. The mixture will be soupy - refrigerate for at least 8 hours and the liquid will soak into the pasta. Very easy and very delicious.