Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Orzo Pasta Salad

Technically speaking, it's spring. If you live in the Northeast though, it has been cold and rainy recently. I love winter because it means Christmas and snuggly mittens and scarves. I've loved winter for long enough and I'm done defending it. I'm done with soups and stews, I want fresh fruit and crisp cold vegetables. Soon enough, I'll be living in front of my air conditioner, cursing the endless perspiration that comes with summer in New England. Before we get to lemonade and burgers, let's start with a transition. Pasta salad is the perfect spring dish for me, I can pretend it's warmer and sense the warm air and cool breeze that should be just around the corner.

The thing about pasta salad is it's much heartier than plain ole salad. I'm a sucker for pasta and part of the reason this blog was started was to learn to prepare meals other than chicken and pasta. But pasta salad is totally different! My favorite pasta salads have an olive oil vinaigrette, cherry tomatoes and pepperoni. I love me some spicy pepperoni with my cold salad. This pasta salad from Joy the Baker (shocking, I know) uses cherry tomatoes, red onion, and cucumber for a great crunch. Orzo pasta was way too hard for me to find probably because I'm blind but this would work well with rotini pasta as well.

Basil also adds some summer flavor
Cucumbers are a strange vegetable to me because they don't really have much flavor. I went on a date once where we got sushi and my date said he didn't like cucumber. How do you a) eat sushi without cucumber and b) have a personal distaste for a vegetable that has no flavor? Let's just say we only made it to date number three when he professed his dislike of cornbread and that was the end of that. At any rate, I've come to appreciate cucumber a little more when mixed with other things like ranch dressing, hummus or orzo pasta.

Crisp cucumbers for some extra crunch
While chopping up the cucumber, I started thinking of all the other things I could make with cucumber. My thoughts ranged from slices for my eyes while I pamper myself with a face mask to cucumber finger sandwiches for a grown up tea party (yes, this was discussed recently among my friends) and then to Pimm's Cup cocktail garnishes. So many uses for such a randomly flavorless ingredient!

All together now!
So once these summer days are finally upon us, cucumbers will be in hot demand for their cooling properties. Until then, I'll just be over here eating my pasta salad in a turtleneck, dreaming of sunny days and the feeling of grass under my feet.

The orzo got a little sticky
This recipe is simple: chop up some vegetables (mainly cucumber, onion and cherry tomatoes) and mix in some orzo pasta (cooked). Once everything is cooled, add some feta cheese and fresh basil to the mix. The most work comes from making the dressing. 1/3 cup of olive oil is mixed with 2 teaspoons of honey and 2 teaspoons of dijon mustard. Shake that all together and bam! Salad dressing. Dress your salad just before eating to keep the salad nice and fresh.

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