Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Nikki's Orzo Salad

I think I mentioned before that my sister just graduated from her Masters program. She had a party afterward to celebrate, and when I asked if I could bring anything, she said, "That orzo salad. With zucchini and squash." And that was all the more descriptive she could get. Luckily I was pretty sure I knew what she was talking about, so I was able to pull something together.

(Forgive some of the odd lighting in the pictures. They were taken in my mom's kitchen (which is way larger and more awesome than mine) and I wasn't used to the lighting.

Also, I'll be giving instructions for a single batch of the salad, but I ended up making a double batch, so if you're wondering why it looks like so much pasta or veggies or whatever, that's why.

This orzo salad is tossed with grilled veggies and a vinaigrette. The veggies are marinated in the vinaigrette, and then the vinaigrette is later poured over the pasta.

The first ingredient for the vinaigrette is dijon mustard. Spoon a bunch of it into a plastic Ziploc bag.

Add some white balsamic vinegar.

If you don't have white balsamic, regular would be fine. I used white here because I didn't want the pasta to turn brownish. Nothing wrong with the flavor there--just takes away from the bright colors of the vegetables.

Add some olive oil, too. I guess I didn't photograph this? Or it looked exactly like the white balsamic going in. Upon reflection, this picture might be of olive oil. Or it might be of balsamic. Who knows. Add both.
Dice up a bunch of garlic. This looks like a ton of garlic, I know, but this was a really tiny knife. Add the garlic to the bag.

Squeeze half a lemon into the marinade. Be careful not to let any of the seeds fall in--you'll be using the vinaigrette later!

Give the bag a good dose of salt and pepper and then a good squish to mix all the ingredients together.

Now you can start on the veggies. I used summer squash, zucchini, red onions, and peppers. I started with the squash. I washed and dried it, then cut off the ends.

Then I cut it into long quarters.

I cut and trimmed the onions in half, and then cut the halves into large slices.

The grocery store had these super cute (and organic!) mini bell peppers, so I picked them to add extra color to the salad. If you just had regular bell peppers, that's fine. Just use one regular sized one instead of three small.

I cut the tops off the peppers.

Then I cut them in half and cut out the seedy part.

All the vegetables went into the bag of vinaigrette.

Whew. So once the vegetables are marinating, you can start on the orzo pasta. Just cook it like you would normal pasta, in plenty of well-salted boiling water. Be sure to stir it occasionally, to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pot. Follow the instructions on the box; I believe mine said it should cook for 5-7 minutes.

Once the pasta is done, drain it and rinse it under cool water.

I let the vegetables marinate while the pasta was going. They smelled really good!

Once the pasta was done, I started the vegetables. I turned my grill on high. I grilled them on a piece of aluminum foil, just because I didn't want the onions to slip through the grates.

I let the veggies get a nice char on all sides.

When your bag is vegetable-free, pour the marinade over the mostly-cooled pasta.

Let your grilled vegetables cool enough to be handled, and then chop them into bite-sized pieces.

Chop up some fresh parsley and basil. Halve a pint of grape tomatoes. Throw them all in with the pasta and veggies.

Finally, top things off with a package of mozzarella pearls (or some diced fresh mozzarella.) If you're not into mozz, add whatever cheese you like. Thick shavings of Parmesan, cubes of white cheddar, or crumbles of feta would be equally as nice.

Carefully toss your orzo salad (this was a huge bowl, and it was full!) Taste your salad to see if it needs anything, and add accordingly. I drizzled in a little extra vinegar and oil, and gave it a nice dose of salt. Serve immediately, or let sit to allow flavors to meld. It'll be a hit no matter when you decide to dig in!

Recipe: Nikki's Orzo Salad

2 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, diced
juice from 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper, to taste

2 summer squash, quartered
1 large red onion, halved and thickly sliced
2 zucchini, quartered
3 mini bell pepper (or 1 large), seeded and halved

1 lb. orzo pasta

1/4 c. fresh parsley, minced
3 tbsp. fresh basil, julienned
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 package mozzarella pearls

In a large Ziploc bag, combine mustard, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and salt and pepper.

Add squash, onions, zucchini, and bell pepper to bag. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare orzo pasta as directed on the package. Run under cool water when cooked fully.

Grill marinated vegetables over high heat until charred on all sides. Let cool slightly. Cut into bite-sized pieces and add to pasta. Pour leftover marinade over orzo pasta.

Add parsley, basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella to orzo pasta. Toss. Taste to check seasonings. Serve right away or let sit to allow flavors to mature.

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