The oppressive heat of summer is upon us. And by us I mean those crazy kids that live in the valley, like Kim. So in honor of those brave souls that bear the three digit temperatures, here’s a speedy weeknight dinner or side dish you can make ahead of time. This is great for picnics or bringing to work as leftovers as no heating is required!
Cold Orzo Salad with Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette
Makes 6 servings
For the Salad:
4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups orzo
1/4 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, roughly diced
A handful of basil leaves, chiffonaded
8 oz of fresh mozarella, 1/2 inch dice
1/8 cup of toasted pine nuts (optional)
For the Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 shallot, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Small handful of basil
Small handful of parsley
4 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup reserved orzo cooking broth, or water
2 tsp tomato paste (get the tube, rather than the cans and keep it in your fridge for occasions like this)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
In a large saucepan, bring broth to a boil over high heat. Add orzo and cook according to package directions until just al dente (usually 1-2 minutes shy of the recommended cooking time). Strain the orzo, reserving 1/4 cup of the broth, rinse it under cold water, then spread out on a sheet pan to cool. Give this a drizzle of olive oil to prevent the orzo from clumping.
While the orzo cools, make the dressing. In a blender or food processor combine all the ingredients except the olive oil. Blend until smooth and then drizzle in the olive oil as the blender is running to create a thick, bright orange, emulsified dressing. Taste and adjust seasonings. Depending on your tomatoes, you might be inclined to add a little sugar for balance. Prep your other salad ingredients as the orzo finishes cooling.
In a large bowl, stir together the orzo, sun dried tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and about 3/4 cup of dressing, reserving some mozzarella for topping. Stir to combine and taste. Now’s the time to adjust your seasoning and dress to your liking. I ended up with a generous cup of dressing on mine. Tuck this in the fridge to get nice an chilly, at least 30 minutes. When ready to serve, top with reserved mozzarella and toasted pinenuts.