Servings: 10 servings
2½ cups orzo pasta
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic, 1 finely minced, 1 whole
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, as needed
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
3 red, yellow and green bell peppers
4 tablespoons fried shallots, pre-cooked
12 ounces string beans, cut into ½ pieces
1 zucchini, stemmed and diced
1½ cups corn kernels, frozen
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ cup Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
juice of 2 lemons
For the honey vinaigrette: Use a sealable container (like a mustard jar previously washed with hot soapy water). In this order, combine the honey, mustard, vinegar, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, olive oil and coriander in the container. Seal the container and shake until emulsified. Add the fried shallots. Mix well. Set aside.
Marinating the salmon: Ask your fishmonger to prep 4 salmon steaks. Wash and pat dry using paper towels. Place the fish steaks in a small, shallow dish. Brush the fish with half the vinaigrette. Season with ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 clove of garlic. Make sure the mixture coats the fish. Spread 1 tablespoon vegetable oil evenly in the dish. Marinate the fish for no more than 30 minutes.
For the orzo pasta:
Bring about 8 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 it (do NOT rinse). Transfer the cooked pasta to a bowl. Add the lemon juice and zest. Season with ½ teaspoon of salt. Let the pasta cool to room temperature. Add the rest of the honey vinaigrette. Mix well. Let stand at room temperature until the rest of the ingredients are ready.
For the string beans, zucchini and corn: Wash the green beans. Cook them with the zucchini for about 3 minutes in boiling water. Add corn and let sit for 1 minute. Transfer into an ice bath. Drain thoroughly and pat dry on a paper towel.
For the bell peppers: Wash the bell peppers; pat dry and brush with oil. Place a grill on your stove and char all the skin of the peppers. Wrap in aluminum foil. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Unwrap and wash under running water; the skin will come right off. Seed and dice the bell peppers. Season with salt and pepper.
Cooking the fish:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a non-stick pan, heat the rest of the vegetable oil and fry the remaining garlic clove until golden. Remove the garlic and set aside. Once the oil has a nice garlic flavor, place the fish in the oil. Jiggle the pan to make sure the fish does not stick to the bottom of the pan and is totally coated with oil. Cook for about 2 minutes until lightly golden, flip each piece (I use chopsticks which I find easier to maneuver; you could use a slotted fish turner) and pan-fry the other side for another 2 minutes until crisp and lightly browned. Do NOT over-cook. Jiggle the pan again. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for 6-8 more minutes.
Remove from the oven and check for doneness. The fish should be flaky. If the fish is not cooked through, bake for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Combine all the ingredients except the salmon. Toss well. Season with the remaining salt and pepper. Break the salmon into flaky chunks over the orzo pasta salad.
Serve at room temperature.
The key to a good orzo salad is to have a homogeneous mixture. All the ingridients should be the same size. I cut everything into 1/2-inch pieces.
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, they 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.