Posted by: timscooking | April 16, 2010

Orzo Salad

With the spate of warm weather we’ve had this week, it’s time to break out some favorite salad recipes. I like to spend a good part of the day working in the garden, getting prepared for the impending growing season, so I like the idea of preparing dinner ahead of time so that, when it is time to eat, evrything is ready except to pour the iced tea or open the wine. Most of my summer salads can be made either the day before or in the morning for that day’s dinner. They are usually easy to make and are packed with veggies. A great way to eat when the weather gets hot.

This orzo salad is at the top of the list. Everyone who has had it wants the recipe. I’ve made this not only for just the wife and me but also for gatherings of 15 at our house and potluck parties of 25 for my wife’s staff.

The original recipe idea came from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Since she lives in the Hamptons on Long Island, New York, she uses shrimp which are readily available and quick roasts them for the salad. Being mindful of folks who may not like or are allergic to seafood of any kind, I adapted the recipe by substituting roasted chicken breast. It seems to have worked because there are never any leftovers!

The salad is great for outdoor gatherings and picnics because it is pretty much warm weather proof. No need to keep it chilled due to the possibility that the dressing or ingredients will go bad. The lemon juice helps to retain its freshness. I’ve also made this meatless, substituting double the amount of cucumber and cheese for the chicken in order to serve it as a side dish at a cookout.

ORZO SALAD

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • Good olive oil
  • 3/4 lb. orzo pasta (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 1/2 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs. bone on, skin on chicken breast
  • 1 c. minced scallions, white and green parts
  • 1 ¼ c. chopped fresh dill
  • 1 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
  • 1/2 c. small-diced red onion
  • 3/4 lb. ricotta salata or good feta cheese, large diced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tbsp. of salt and a splash of oil, and bring the water to a boil. Add the orzo and simmer for 9 to 11 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it’s cooked al dente. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, 1/2 c. olive oil, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. of pepper. Pour over the hot pasta and stir well.

Meanwhile, place the chicken on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. When it is cool enough to handle, de-bone the breasts and remove the skin. Cut into 1” cubes.

Add the chicken to the orzo and then add the scallions, 1 c.dill, parsley, cucumber, onion, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Toss well. Add the cheese and stir carefully so as not to break up the cubes. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend, or refrigerate overnight. If refrigerated, taste again for seasonings and bring back to room temperature before serving.

Drizzle each serving with olive oil and garnish with the remaining dill.

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