Orzo is a rice shaped pasta that is very convenient for making salads. Just dice all the vegetables the same size as the orzo grains, add a vinaigrette, and you're all set. If you need meat in your meal, diced smoked turkey is a healthy and tasty option.
The reason I made this is that Lulu's family organized a fun picnic for Memorial weekend in Big Basin. It was a pot luck, and I volunteered to make the veggie dish. The orzo pasta salad is easy to make and easy to transport, which are both important considerations when you're planning a picnic. Just drizzle the vinaigrette when you're ready to eat. Make it for your next family picnic or barbecue; it's guaranteed to be a hit!
Servings: 8 servings
1 16-oz package orzo pasta
1 tsp table salt
1 drizzle olive oil
1 tsp fleur de sel
1 cup baby carrots, finely diced
1 roasted red bell pepper, finely diced
1 roasted orange bell pepper, finely diced
1 1/2 cup yellow corn kernels, drained
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, finely chopped
1/3 cup black olives, finely diced
1 large eggplant
1 Tbs canola oil
1/2 tsp Kosher salt
zest and freshly squeezed juice of a lemon
1/2 cup feta, finely diced
1/2 tsp white peppercorns, freshly ground
1 cup raw broccoli
3 cups arugula
1 cup raspberry vinaigrette
For the orzo pasta: Bring about 5 quarts of water to a boil. Add the pasta, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the pasta is cooked all the way through evenly. Cook the pasta for about 12 minutes total. Salt the water half way through the cooking process, add some olive oil (it will bring out the natural flavor of the pasta and the pasta will be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so that the pasta does not stick to the bottom. It may take longer than the cooking time that is written on the box. When the pasta is cooked (cooked inside and out but still in shape and firm), drain the pasta (do NOT rinse). Transfer the cooked pasta to a bowl. Add the lemon juice and its zest. Season with fleur de sel. Let the pasta cool to room temperature. Add about 1/3 cup of the raspberry vinaigrette. Mix well. Plastic-wrap the bowl, then chill in the refrigerator until the rest of the preparation is ready.
For the eggplant: Slice the unpeeled eggplants lengthwise in 5 pieces. Layer a tray on top of a cooling rack, then place the eggplant slices on top. Sprinkle salt and let sit for 1/2 hour. Pat dry with kitchen towel. Brush a hot griddle pan with oil. Drizzle oil on the eggplant slices, then place the slices on the griddle. Cook until you get grill marks (about 4 minutes on each side). Remove from the heat and transfer on a plate. Allow to cool, then dice into small cubes.
For the broccoli: Blanch the greens in about a quart of boiling water. Cook for about 3 minutes. Strain and immediately transfer the broccoli into a cold water bath. Pat dry on a towel. Cut into small bite-sized pieces.
Assembly time: In a large bowl, combine the orzo pasta, baby carrots, the roasted bell peppers, corn, sun dried tomatoes, olives, feta and broccoli. Mix well. Season with salt and pepper.
When you're ready to serve, add the arugula and drizzle some raspberry vinaigrette.
The key to a good orzo salad is to have a homogeneous mixture. All the vegetables should be the same size as the orzo grain. The other factor to a good salad in general is to have an excellent vinaigrette.
For the raspberry vinaigrette: This salad dressing is very similar to the kumquat clementine dressing for leek vinaigrette. In a bowl, dissolve 2 teaspoon of sugar in 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. Add 1 tablespoon of mustard. Set aside. Place a 5.6-oz package of raspberries in an immersion blender until fruit is pureed. Strain in a sieve and discard the raspberry seeds. Place the raspberry puree in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle simmer for a bit less than 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon of fleur de sel and whisk in 1/3 cup of olive oil immediately while the juice is still hot. Add the mustard / cider vinegar mixture. Finish with white pepper.
You've probably noticed I use a lot of roasted bell peppers in my cooking. I usually roast 2-3 bell peppers at a time. I sprinkle some salt on the roasted bell peppers, place them in a jar and fill it up with pure olive oil. Stored in the refrigerator it can be kept up to a week. The olive oil will become cloudy in the refrigerator but will regain its regular clarity when brought back to room temperature.
Roasting bell peppers is pretty easy. Wash the bell pepper, pat dry, then brush with oil. Place a grill on your stove, then char all the skin of the bell pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Wash the bell pepper under running tap water and the skin will come right off. Seed it, slice it and store until needed.
You can also buy crumbled feta instead of dicing it.
To add more crunch, you can add about 1/3 cup of toasted pine nuts. I didn't because my 9-year-old-sister-in-law is deathly allergic to nuts.