Sunday, April 10, 2011

Orzo Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette

After the threat of snow loomed on April 1st (very funny, Mother Nature!), and passed over Burlington leaving not more than a few flurries, I was more ready for spring than ever.  I made a quick trip to the market, and found tiny zucchini, yellow squash, leeks, a small fennel bulb, and grape tomatoes, all sent to Vermont from warmer climates where the frost is a distant memory.

After some scrummaging, I found a half-box of orzo left in my pantry from a soup I made last month, and decided a pasta salad was in order.  To complement the sweet anise flavor of the fennel I assembled a cumin vinaigrette flecked with oregano, which gave the assembled salad a distinctly Mediterranean aroma.  Roasting the vegetables with an additional sprinkle of cumin along with some olive oil and garlic amplified the flavor and lent a nice caramelization to the vegetable mixture.

As I sit happily eating, I hope that I'll soon find fresh spring and summer produce at the local farmer's market.  I'm particularly looking forward to baby artichokes (cooked and served with melted garlic butter) and the multitudinous heirloom tomatoes, which I'm happy slicing and eating with a sprinkle of salt.

Orzo Salad with Roasted Vegetables and Cumin Vinaigrette
Serves 4-6 as a light meal, or 8-12 as a side dish

8 ox (1/2 box) orzo pasta
1 1/2 c. grape tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
1 small fennel bulb, cored and diced
1 medium leek, well cleaned and diced
1 small zucchini, seeds scraped out and diced
1 small yellow squash, seeds scraped out and diced
1 clove garlic, minced finely
1/4 c. plus 2 T. olive oil
1/3 c. white wine vinegar
1 T. plus 1 t. ground cumin
1 1/2 t. oregano, finely chopped
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.  Toss together tomatoes, fennel, leek, zucchini, and squash with garlic, 1 t. cumin and 2 T. olive oil.  Spread evenly onto rimmed baking sheet, and let roast in oven 10 minutes or until vegetables have started to brown slightly.  Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette: whisk together remaining 1/4 c. olive oil, white wine vinegar, remaining 1 T. cumin, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.  When vegetables have completed roasting, the baking sheet can be set aside to let the vegetable mixture cool slightly.

Cook orzo in a large pot according to the package directions, and drain in a colander.  Return to the pot and drizzle 1/2 of the vinaigrette over the hot orzo.  Toss to combine.  Add vegetables, and add additional vinaigrette as needed to coat the salad.  Transfer to a serving bowl and cover; let refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  (Any additional vinaigrette can be stored for up to a week, and added to the pasta salad if it seems dry after refrigeration.)

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