Saturday, July 2, 2011

Orzo Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

I know this is a cookie blog but every now and then I can't resist passing along a great recipe for something other than cakes, cookies or pies.

With a long holiday weekend upon us I thought I'd share a recipe that is a great picnic salad that we just love around here. My son, Kris, can never get enough of this and it's the most requested. And you don't have to worry about this salad getting spoiled in the heat like a mayonaise salad.

The recipe is quite old...vintage, in fact! It originally came from an old issue, probably from the 1980's, of "Better Homes and Gardens" Magazine and I've kept it all these years.

You can switch out any of the ingredients to suit your taste. If you don't like olives ( how could you not!?) you can leave them out. Same thing with the capers. We really don't like sun dried tomatoes so I left them out of our salad. You can also add in anything else you might think of that would sound good, such as parsley or roasted red sweet peppers, perhaps.

Have a great 4th!

Orzo Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette ( adapted from " Better Homes and Gardens" )

Makes 8 side dish servings. Double or triple the recipe for more people.

One quick note: The original recipe is actually called "Wild Rice Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette" but we love orzo so much that we subbed all orzo for the wild rice. I'm sure the wild rice would be great so I'm giving you the original recipe as it's written.

1 cup cooked wild rice (1/2 cup uncooked)
1 cup cooked orzo pasta ( 1/2 cup uncooked)
1/2 cup red,  green, yellow or orange bell pepper, cut into small 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup sliced pitted ripe olives ( I use both green and kalamata olives because we love them)
1/3 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes, dry packed ( soften tomatoes by placing them in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain).
2 tbsp. capers, drained and rinsed briefly if too briny
Other add ins: Diced red onion, parsley or anything else you can think of!

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup olive oil ( I used extra virgin)
1/3 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. snipped fresh basil
1 tbsp. finely chopped shallots or green onions (scallions)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, optional
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine cooled rice and orzo, peppers, olives, tomatoes and capers. Set aside.
2. In a screw top jar, combine olive oil, vinegar, basil, shallots ( or green onions), garlic and black pepper. Cover and shake well.
3. Pour the vinaigrette over the rice/orzo mixture and toss to coat. (Note: I found this was too much vinaigrette for this amount of rice/orzo so I used some over ripe tomatoes sliced with fresh mozzarella. Yum! You can save it to use over other things, too, like a green salad or chicken or fish).
4. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours. Stir in nuts before serving, if using.

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