Orzo and Zucchini Salad

This was SO meant to be a summer salad post, but thankfully, we typically can find good zucchini at the grocery store all year.  Orzo and Zucchini Salad from the July/August 2007 issue of Everyday Food makes a great accompaniment to anything grilled – chicken, burgers, brats, whatever.  Plus, it only takes 20 minutes and it’s best at room temperature, which means it’s a terrific party dish as well.

In a medium pot of boiling salted water, I cooked 1 cup of orzo until it was al dente (according to package directions).  I drained it well and spread it on a rimmed baking sheet to cool.

Next, I heated 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  I added 2 zucchini (quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced) and 1 minced garlic clove and then seasoned with salt and pepper.  I cooked the zucchini and garlic, tossing occasionally, until the zucchini was crisp-tender (about 5 minutes).

I transferred the cooled orzo to a medium bowl and then added the zucchini mixture, 1/2 cup of fresh torn basil leaves, 1 1/2 tablespoons of white-wine vinegar (use 1 – 2 tablespoons to suit your taste), and 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  I seasoned the mixture with salt and pepper, tossed it to combine, and let it cool to room temperature (10 – 15 minutes) before serving.

I do love this salad.  It has great texture and flavor – the crisp-tender zucchini goes so well with the al dente orzo, and the white-wine vinegar and basil add clean, fresh flavor.  I must say I like it best with regular orzo, though.  Central Market only had whole-wheat orzo in the bulk section during this particular store trip and it wasn’t quite as fabulous as usual.

TIPS:  As with any simple dish, good seasoning is essential with this recipe.  Don’t be afraid to go several (conservative) rounds with the salt and pepper to get the flavor you want.

Recipe link: Orzo and Zucchini Salad

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