By Smarty Cooking School Smarty Mama Cynthia Clark
Ladies and Gentlemen, with swim team practices now up and running, the countdown to summer has officially begun in the Clark household. Don’t get me wrong; we love our school! It’s just that the end of this particular school year is a tough one for me, as in; “how is my baby graduating from kindergarten”?! Another question, if I may, “How is my big baby already in 3rd grade”?!! Wasn’t she JUST in kindergarten herself?!! Yep, the end of the school year is always bitter-sweet for me, but I gotta tell ya – I LOVE me some summer vaycay!
When we’re not off doing ‘this, that and the other’ during the summer, it’s pretty laid back here at Casa de Clark. Pajamas on until noon? Sure! Cereal for lunch? Why not?! “Mommy, can I jump in bed and cuddle with you until you’re ready to get up?” Ummm, yes please! Yep, I’m definitely ready for summer break!
I’m also ready to dig into some lighter recipes that are easy to prepare, yummy to eat and bathing suit friendly ;o) This orzo salad is jam packed with protein, fiber and full of fresh, delicious summery flavor! This is the PERFECT salad to serve alongside some BBQ chicken and a side of sweet, freshly sliced watermelon…and BONUS, tastes great the next day (you know, in the off chance you don’t want cereal for lunch again ;o)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Honey, Lemons, salt and pepper.
First things first, bring the chicken broth to a rolling boil over high heat, then pour in the orzo, give it a stir and cook (un-covered or partially covered) until al dente (every brand varies, so check the your box says. For me, 8 mins was perfect! Anything more would have been a mushy mess). Give it a good stir from time to time to keep anything from sticking. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water to cool completely, and set aside.
Before we get to the rest of the recipe, let me show you a little trick for cutting all of those pesky, tiny tomatoes (this by the way works GREAT with grapes!!!) First you’ll want to find two small plastic plates OR even better, the tops of plastic tupperwear like Gladwear. Put the tomatoes on the TOP of one of the lids or if you’re using a plastic plate, use the BOTTOM. Next, put the other lid on top of the tomatoes, only upside down so the TOP of the lid is touching the tomatoes, or if you’re using a plate, the bottom of the plate will be touching the tomatoes. In other words, the part that has the “hump” touches the grapes. Next, holding down the top of the plate, take a sharp knife and cut the tomatoes from one end of the plate to the other…in one quick swoop, they are all cut! Confusing? Check out these pics…
Alright, now back to that salad! I like to chiffonade (cut into thin ribbons) the basil, then add it to the salad. To do that, just stack up the basil leaves (biggest on the bottom), then roll it up like a cigar, and cut into thin ribbons…like this…
In a large bowl, add the cooked and cooled orzo, chick peas, tomatoes, shallots (they are covered by the chick peas ;o) and basil, toss well and set aside.
Put all dressing ingredients in a small blender (or just whisk the HECK out of it and put in a mason jar with a tight fitting lid, since you’ll have to give it a good shake if it separates before you add to the salad). I have done it both ways and really prefer grabbing my old stand ‘bullet blender’ which is perfect for small jobs like this, and blitz it all up. It emulsifies it beautifully and gives it the illusion of a creamy dressing – YUMMY! Pour 1 C of the vinaigrette onto the salad and mix well again. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. SO, a question you might be asking yourself is… “Self, why did I make so much dressing if I’m only using 1 C of it?” Great question – three things: 1) If you have leftovers, the next day you may notice the salad being a little on the dry side. That’s because those thirsty little orzo nuggets absorb the dressing, so you’ll want to toss it with more of the vinaigrette. 2) While I like it with 1C, YOU might like it with more. Taste it after 1 C, and then decide. Last, but not least, 3) The vinaigrette is so tasty and keeps for quite a few days in a sealed jar in the fridge. Delicious drizzled over field greens and rotisserie chicken for a quick lunch, or right on top of a sandwich…you’ll be happy you have some leftover.
I hope you all enjoy it as much as my family does! Cheers and blessings :o)
Summer Orzo Salad
(adapted from a recipe by Giada DeLaurentiis)
* 4 to 5 C Reduced Fat Chicken Stock
1 ½ C Dry Orzo
1 – 16 oz Can Chick Peas, drained and rinsed (you could also use pink kidney beans)
1 ½ C Grape Tomatoes or Cherry Tomatoes (measure out 1 ½ C THEN cut it)
1 Shallot (OR ½ of a large sized shallot OR ¼ of a red onion) finely minced
14 – 16 large to medium Basil Leaves, chiffonade (about ½ C once cut into ribbons and ‘fluffed’)
**1/4 C fresh mint, chiffonade (This is OPTIONAL) When I make this for “the girls”, I will add the mint. When I make it at home, I don’t since my husband and son don’t care for the taste of mint.
½ C Red Wine Vinegar
Juice of 2 Lemons
1 ½ TBS Honey
½ tsp Kosher Salt (I should say that I almost ALWAYS end up adding another ‘good’ pinch of salt)
¼ tsp Ground Black Pepper
2/3 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
* If you don’t have any chicken broth or stock, you can totally boil the orzo in water – just make sure to really season the water with a good bit of salt to help give the pasta some extra flavor! My grandmother used to say that the water you boil pasta in, should be as salty as the sea :o)