This past Tuesday marked the beginning of summer, otherwise known as barbecue season. I’m sure we have all given our grills some use by now, but we have many more weekends of friendly get-togethers to look forward to. Hot dogs, hamburgers and potato salad are staples that I doubt anyone could ever be sick of, but if you are looking to change it up a bit, try this tasty side dish!
I had been anxiously waiting to make this pasta salad since I found it on The Novice Chef a few weeks ago because it looked so delicious and simple. I’m a sucker for fresh vegetables and dishes that require little preparation and time. So, when I was invited to have dinner at a friend’s house the other night, I was glad to finally have an excuse to make this salad.
On the night of the barbecue, I expected to wow my friends with my creativeness. I should have known better than to expect praise, though, as my friends can be the harshest critics I know. As silly as it sounds, sharing recipes and playing food critic is one of our favorite things to do. We watch a little too much Top Chef.
My critic friends gave the original recipe a four out of ten stars. Three stars were awarded for the fresh taste and preparation of the vegetables and another star was awarded for the pretty dish it was presented in. Yes, we are that particular. They generally agreed that it lacked any real flavor. The word “bland” was thrown around at least twelve times. This kind of criticism is my favorite, however, because it poses the challenge of changing something that is boring into something extraordinary.
To spice it up, I decided that the dish needed some sort of dressing to take the pasta from plain to flavorful. I did some research to find a light vinaigrette that would complement and not overpower the ingredients in the dish. I found exactly what I was looking for on My Baking Addiction. The dressing has a few basic ingredients which can be found with ease in your spice cabinet. Imagine that – a little olive oil and a few spices took this dish from blah to fabulous!
The adapted recipe satisfied my friends and hopefully it will please yours as well!
Orzo Salad with Zucchini and Cherry Tomatoes
Adapted recipe and photos by Julianne Hodges
Original recipe by The Novice Chef
Yield: 4-6 servings Total Time: 25 minutes
For the salad:
- 1 cup tri-color orzo
- 8 cups water
- 1 cube Better Than Bouillon, Chicken
- Cooking spray or water
- 1 large zucchini, chopped
- 12-15 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 large shallot, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
- salt and pepper
For the dressing:
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 clove fresh garlic, finely chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3/4 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- Bring the water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the bouillon and whisk until dissolved. Then, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Strain and set aside.
- Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray or olive oil. Add the zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shallot and garlic. Sauté the vegetables until tender (about five minutes).
- Remove the vegetables from the heat and add the thyme, salt and pepper. Toss this over the orzo and stir well.
- For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until combined. Pour over the orzo salad and mix until it is coated. Serve hot or cold.
Think the dish could use even more kick? Add some crumbled feta cheese! This will add some tanginess to the dish and a Greek flair that guests are sure to love.