Growing up there was nothing that scared me more than a big bowl of macaroni salad sitting on a buffet table. It was just nasty in my book. Gloppy with mayonnaise and often with the dreaded tuna thrown in just to make matters worse. So as a result, I grew up thinking that all pasta salad was something to be avoided at all costs.
Fortunately I have found what I really love in a pasta salad, one filled with fresh vegetables, fruit, cheese and occassionally nuts. The dressing has to be light and not overly oil or so assertive that it takes away from the main ingredients. In my mind orzo is the perfect past choice for a fresh pasta salad as it plays well with whatever you choose to add and you don’t feel overwhelmed by pasta.
This is a salad that I came up with a couple of weeks ago and I have enjoyed it so much that I have made it twice since. It has everything going for it, crispy, crunchy, sweet, salty and if you want a bit of heat, just add some Tabasco to the dressing. Try this with your next cookout, for your Father’s Day brunch or do like I do and let it be the main course with some nice crusty bread and a glass of crisp white wine.
Grape & Asparagus Orzo Salad
- 1 lb. orzo
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cups red seedless grapes, halved
- 2 green onions, white & green parts chopped
- 1 lb. asparagus
- ¾ cup toasted, skinned hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- Freshly ground coarse pepper
Cook orzo until al dente. Rinse briefly and spread out on cookie sheet to cool. Toss occasionally to speed cooling process.
Bring 2 quarts of salted water to boil. Break off tough parts of asparagus and add to boiling water, cook for 2-3 minutes and then plunge asparagus into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process and retain its bright green color. Remove from ice water after one minute and chop into 1/2 – 1” pieces.
In a large bowl, combine cooled orzo, chopped red bell pepper, halved grapes, chopped green onions, chopped asparagus and toss well.
Add vinaigrette, toss well. Then add feta, hazel nuts, salt and pepper and gently toss again. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 -3 dashes Tabasco sauce (optional)
Whisk all ingredients together and salt & pepper to taste.