Orzo Salad for a Crowd

Potlucks, BBQs and picnics usually mean you’re in charge of making a dish that can satisfy a crowd.  Instead of the expected potato salad, wow them with this orzo salad that incorporates all the flavors of  an antipasti plate.  Use whatever vegetables you have on hand to make this recipe your own and try grilling them if it’s just to hot for the oven.

4 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
3 cups asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 oz. soppressata , cut into half inch cubes
4 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups artichoke hearts, chopped
1 cup black olives, chopped
1 1/2 cups parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp. red chili flakes
1 tsp. basil
1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan 
Juice of 1 lemon
3/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tsp salt
2 lbs. orzo

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Place quartered tomatoes on a large baking sheet.  Drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and sprinkle on 1/4 tsp. salt.  Toss to combine and then spread out the tomatoes so that they are in a single layer on the sheet.  Place in the oven for 30 minutes, turning once half way through.  Remove and let cool.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl.  Then, in a large saucepan, bring water to a boil and add the asparagus for 1 and a half minutes.   Remove asparagus and promptly place in the ice bath to cool.  After 5 minutes in the ice bath, drain the asparagus and dry with clean kitchen towel.  Place asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil and season with 1/4 tsp. salt.  Toss to combine and then spread out the asparagus so that they are in a single layer on the sheet.  Place in the oven for 30 minutes, turning once about half way through.  Remove and add to the pan with the tomatoes.  Add the chopped artichoke hearts to the pan and toss to combine.

While the vegetables are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Once water is boiling, add orzo.  Cook according to package directions making sure to remove the orzo when it is just al dente.  Drain pasta and stir in 2 tbsp of olive oil to prevent sticking.

Divide the orzo and vegetables evenly among two large bowls (due to volume) and combine.  Add equal amounts of the soppressata and olives to each bowl.  In a jar with a tight lid (or large mixing bowl), combine the parmesan, chili, parsley, basil, balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt to make the dressing.  Drizzle in 3/4 cup  olive oil.  Place the lid on and shake to combine.   Pour half of the dressing over each bowl of orzo.  Squeeze lemon into each bowl and sprinkle a little fresh black pepper.  Stir to combine well.  Cover and let sit in the refrigerate until ready to serve.

This recipe feeds a large crowd but can certainly be halved for smaller groups.


Orzo Casserole

Simply put, this dish is quick, delicious and leaves you with plenty of leftovers.  It’s also versatile to make, you can use whatever vegetables or cheese you have on hand.  Try adding black olives or sun dried tomatoes.  And the beauty of it all is that, if you want, you can make it ahead of time.  Either pre-assemble and keep covered in the fridge or freezer until ready for the oven or fully cook when you have some down time.  Cut into portions and freeze for later use.

Orzo Casserole

1 cup orzo
3/4 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups frozen spinach (or about 4-5 cups fresh spinach, steamed)
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup Weeknight Marinara Sauce
2 1/2 tsp goat cheese (or 1/4 cup crumbled feta)

Cook orzo according to package directions (about 7 minutes) until al dente.  Drain and drizzle with olive oil.

In same saucepan you cooked pasta in (less dishes rule!) heat remaining olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and mushrooms and saute 3 minutes.  Add spinach and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5-7 minutes. Let cool for 3-5 minutes.

In a lightly greased baking dish spread out 3 tablespoons of the orzo into an inch thick layer.  Add 3 tablespoons of sauce evenly over the orzo.  Spoon on the spinach and mushroom mixture (about 1 cup).    Crumble on 1 tsp goat cheese.  Repeat with remaining orzo, sauce, spinach and goat cheese.

In a preheated 400 degree oven, cook the casserole for 15 – 20 minutes.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Catching Up

Relaxing in Naragansett, RI after a few weeks of craziness

Life has been non-stop these last few weeks and unfortunately most of it had little to do with food.

With a big work deadline looming most of my meals were takeout, consumed at my desk or during a meeting and at random hours of the day.

After my work assignment was over and done with last Friday,  I headed up to Rhode Island again for another fabulous weekend of relaxation which I so badly needed.

A few foodie moments snuck into my schedule lately, however, and here is a quick roundup:

♦ Delicious, cozy meal at Little Owl in the West Village, NYC (full review post to come soon)

♦ A fabulous engagement party for two close friends.  I had great time with all of my friends on a gorgeous day.  And of course the food was delicious! There was a slider “bar” with many different slider varieties including salmon, veggie, chicken and one named for the groom-to-be: Steve’s Sirloin Sliders with Chipotle Mayo.  The assortment of french fries was also incredible!  Both the sweet potato fries & regular fries were good but the Peruvian blue potato fries with truffle oil were out of this world!  Also on the menu were tiny shots of traditional tomato gazpacho and a fennel & onion salad.  Of course for dessert I indulged in a carrot cake cupcake!


♦ A special someone’s birthday dinner prepared by my gracious RI hosts and enjoyed with great company.  The meal included BBQ ribs & chicken, homemade baked beans (baked for 24 hours!), orzo pasta salad with red onion, grilled asparagus & cherry tomatoes and then a garden fresh strawberry rhubarb pie.

♦ A quiet and delightful birthday lunch picnic before a fun round of tennis (well tennis lesson for me, really).  Lunch was simple deli sandwiches, salt & vinegar Kettle potato chips & of course a Miller High Life to wash it all down.  Such a fabulous day.

View of the tennis courts from our picnic spot

♦ Random recipe ideas which always come to me when I don’t have time to test them! I wrote them all down however, so be on the lookout for them.

And last but not least…

♦ News of Foodbuzz’s first Blogging Festival  in San Francisco!!!! For a few years now I have been wanting to go to S.F. and with this latest development I really think the time has come to make the trip.  Everyone who has been there tells me how much I would love the city and enjoy all of the wonderful food it has to offer.  Can’t wait!

I’ve been trying to catch up on some of the happenings in the blog world but would love to hear what you’ve been up to in case I missed it!  Also, let me know your thoughts on Foodbuzz’s Blogging Festival.  Are you happy it is in San Francisco?  Will you be attending and what are you looking forward to the most?