Over 70 degrees here in Minneapolis yesterday, which as most of you know, is unheard of early in March here in the frozen tundra! For all of us here in the Midwest, shedding our layers, basking in the sunshine, out reconnecting with our neighbors as everyone comes into the great outdoors, we are needing to shift our menus. We find ourselves moving away from the heavy of the winter and towards the bright colors and textures of the spring. For me, one of those “welcome to spring” foods is orzo.
Orzo is a fabulous food- versatile, inexpensive, and much less fussy than arborio rice. It is easy to cook, and holds up beautifully in the refrigerator. The beautiful thing about orzo, is that you can add many different things and completely change up the flavor of the pasta. At this time of the year, we all crave fresh summer vegetables, however the ground hasn’t quite caught up yet. I have created this specific spring orzo salad by using some of my favorite ingredients-tomatos, red onions, cannelini beans and paired them with fresh basil which can be easily grown inside, and salty black olives which are also readily available year round. This is a salad brimming with spring flavor, without relying on a lot of imported vegetables which aren’t ready in our own gardens yet. Don’t you worry, the orzo salad brimming with veggies from my garden will be featured, but we’ll have to wait patiently until the bounty of the summer harvest arrives. Truly, this spring orzo salad makes waiting just that much easier.
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups orzo
- 1 (15 ounce) can cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (2.25 ounce) can sliced black olives, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups grape tomatoes, sliced (or quartered if yours are large)
- 1 cup red onion, finely chopped
- ⅔ cup chopped basil
- ¼ cup chopped mint
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
- Place the chicken broth in a sauce pan, cover and bring to a boil.
- Add the orzo, stirring gently.
- Cover the sauce pan and cook orzo under tender, about 7 minutes. Don't forget to stir occasionally or your orzo will stick together.
- Drain the orzo, discarding the chicken stock.
- Place the orzo in a large bowl, tossing occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Allow the orzo to cool completely.
- While orzo is cooling, make the vinaigrette.
- Place the red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper into a mason jar and shake vigorously until combined. Set aside.
- Toss cooled orzo with cannelini beans, black olives, tomatoes, red onion, basil and mint.
- Coat with vinaigrette.
- Season salad with salt and pepper to taste.
Note: This salad can easily be made vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock or even water instead of the chicken stock. Also never wrong to garnish with some salty shaved parmesan cheese!