Saturday, September 4, 2010

Orzo Fennel Salad

Pasta salads have come to be a symbol of summer.  No summer picnic, potluck, or celebration is complete without one.  With that much pasta salad in demand each summer, there are plenty of opportunities to change it up each time, incorporating a new type of pasta, sauce or dressing, and fresh vegetables and herbs each time.  The orzo salad below makes use of the gorgeous red and yellow cherry tomatoes that have been so prolific at our farmer's market all summer as well as fresh fennel straight from my garden.  Mix and match the ingredients from this version with whatever fresh local veggies and herbs you have on hand.  And don't forget, just like with my grandma's famous potato salad, the key is always to dress it while it's hot...  :)
-1-2 c orzo
-2-3 c cherry tomatoes
-chopped fresh herbs, such as fennel fronds, mint, and basil
-juice of one lemon
-olive oil
-salt and pepper

->  Cook orzo in boiling salted water until al dente according to package directions.  Meanwhile, halve your cherry tomatoes and chop your fresh herbs.  Mix the lemon juice and olive oil and season well with salt and pepper.  When the orzo is finished and drained, mix it while it is still hot with the tomatoes, herbs, and dressing.  Dressing the pasta hot is key for the flavors to really mix and be absorbed well.  Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or pepper if needed.  Refrigerate until cold or eat room temperature.  

~*TIP:  This winter when there are fewer fresh herbs and vegetables on hand, but you still crave cool, refreshing pasta salad, try a different version of this orzo salad that makes use of canned and preserved vegetables, etc.  You can incorporate sliced roasted red peppers, pickled artichokes, calamata olives, or even some tuna packed in olive oil.  If you're growing parsley in your garden, you'll probably be able to find some still green even with snow on the ground to chop up and include.  Throw in some feta cheese, and it will be a hit.  My roommate Rachel makes something similar to this, and we can never get enough of it. *~

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