Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad

Dsc02409 We had to make another Costco trip this weekend.  Dreading it, I waited until the last possible minute before finally giving in on Saturday.  I believe it was during the moment that I was scraping every last bit of flour out of its canister, in efforts to gather enough for the recipe that I was working on, that I realized I couldn't avoid it any longer.  So, bright and early Saturday morning, after our workout and a delicious breakfast at The Cracked Egg (highly recommended), Eric and I arrived at Costco just in time for opening.  As a rule, I always shop at Costco right when it opens--less crowded, less claustrophobic, and much, much faster.

If we are in a recession, you wouldn't know it from the goings on at the Summerlin Costco.  Carts everywhere were piled high, filled with everything from dog food to Guitar Hero, even at 10 a.m.  We wanted to get some steaks to grill for dinner, but when we searched for the tenderloin, they had apparently already sold out in record time and were in the process of restocking, so we waited.  Armed with our freshly cut steaks, a good pinot noir from Costco's vast and impressive selection, and about 40 other "necessities" (mind you, I use that term loosely), we headed to the checkout for the always painful grand total.

After a really nice night out on Friday, we decided to stay home, rent a movie, and grill our steaks for dinner.  To go along with the filets, I made one of my favorite warm weather salads, full of roasted vegetables and tossed in a light lemony dressing.  Because it tastes delicious at any temperature, I like to make a big batch and graze on it over the next few days.  It went perfectly with our lightly seasoned grilled steaks, but I think we could have found a better pairing in the cinematography sector.  I voted for 27 Dresses, or even There Will Be Blood, but I lost out to Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.  On the positive side, I was able to do other things while the movie played--the plot didn't require my full attention.  At least dinner was good.  Here are my tips for this simple summer salad:

  • If you don't have orzo on hand, or if you can't find it in your grocery store, feel free to substitute rotini, farfalle, orecchiette, or even penne.   Whole wheat versions would work nicely too.  If not located with the general pasta, orzo can often be found in the Italian foods section of the grocery store.
  • Mix and match vegetables for this salad according to your personal preferences.  If you prefer yellow or orange peppers, use them.  Assorted mushrooms, grape tomatoes, yellow squash, and broccoli florets would all be good choices for additions or substitutions.
  • This salad will keep well, covered and chilled, for 3 to 4 days.  I like to eat it cold, but you can really serve it at any temperature.
  • Top the salad with grilled chicken or shrimp to turn it into an entree.
  • The feta cheese in this recipe is optional, but it certainly adds a nice tangy flavor.  Other cheeses that would work nicely are crumbled goat cheese or a milder diced buffalo mozzarella.

Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad

Serves 6-8Dsc02407


1 (1-pound) eggplant, cut into ¾-inch cubes

2 red bell peppers, cut into ¾-inch pieces

1 large zucchini, cut into ¾-inch cubes

1 red onion, cut into ¾-inch pieces

3 cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons dried thyme

Salt and pepper

½ pound dried orzo pasta

For the dressing

⅓ cup fresh lemon juice

⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

To finish the salad

¼ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

4 scallions, minced

¼ cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

½ pound feta cheese, diced (optional)

Dsc02408 Preheat the oven to 425F degrees.  Toss the eggplant, peppers, zucchini, red onion, and garlic with the olive oil and thyme in a roasting pan.  Season generously with salt and pepper and toss to mix.  Roast for 40-45 minutes, until browned, tossing occasionally.

While the vegetables roast, cook the orzo.  Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the orzo and cook for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender.  Drain the orzo and transfer to a large bowl.

Add the roasted vegetables to the orzo, scraping all of the liquid from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.

For the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and add the dressing to the pasta bowl.  Toss the mixture to coat well.  Add the pine nuts, scallions, parsley, and feta (optional) to the salad and toss well.  Season to taste and serve at room temperature or cold.

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