Orzo & Vegetable Salad

What started as a Barefoot Contessa recipe for regular orzo with roasted winter vegetables now bears so little resemblance to the original that I credit this as a BethB  creation.  But, thanks for the inspiration, Ina.

Check out the full story behind this dish here.

For the pasta:

  • 1/2 lb. whole wheat orzo
  • 1 bunch asparagus, blanched and 1/2-inch diced
  • 4 roasted red bell peppers, diced
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 Tsb extra virgin olive oil

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (appx. 2 lemons)
  • 3 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbs white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

For finishing:

  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat feta
  • 15 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 5 fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.  (You will use this for both the asparagus and the orzo.)

Rinse asparagus and trim the stalks just above the tough part.  (You can find this spot by breaking one stalk naturally and then cutting the rest in the same spot.)  Once the water reaches a boil, add salt and cook the asparagus until softened, about 5 minutes.  Remove the asparagus, but don’t drain the water!  Rinse the asparagus in cold water (to stop the cooking), and spread them out on a towel to cool and dry.  Once cooled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces.

Add the orzo to the same pot of boiling water, and cook according to the package directions, usually 8-10 minutes.  Drain and let cool.

Place a small saucepan over medium heat.  (You will use this for both the pine nuts and the shallots/garlic.)  Add pine nuts to the pan without oil, and toast until the nuts are barely brown and aromatic.  (These guys go from toasted to burnt in a NY-minute, so do not leave them unattended.)  After removing the pine nuts, add 1/2 Tbs of olive oil and then add the diced shallots and garlic.  Cook until browned, about 5-8 minutes.

Now, for the fun part :: Assembly.  In a VERY large bowl, combine the orzo, asparagus, roasted bell peppers, and shallot/onion mixture.

In a separate small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients together.  Pour 1/2 of the dressing over the pasta, and then taste it to decide how much more dressing to add and whether to add more salt and pepper.  I usually use about 3/4 of the dressing and lots more salt and pepper.

Add the feta and herbs.  And, eat your heart out!

This can be served hot, cold, or at room temp, which makes it a great potluck dish. 🙂

Yield: appx 6 servings

Nutritional Info (per serving)
Calories — 269
Total fat — 11.9 g
Saturated fat — 2.4 g
Cholesterol — 2 mg
Sodium — 948 mg
Carbohydrate — 33.6 g
Dietary fiber — 7.8 g
Sugars — 2.5 g
Protein — 10 g


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