Summer is thick right now, the blazing, oppressive heat of Georgia forcing even sun-loving beings into the shade or air conditioning for rest. We thought we could escape it for a while with a trip to coastal Maine where my sister and her family live. That heat and humidity followed us there. Mainers don’t need air conditioning typically but this was a week where I wished for it hard. We spent a few of the days with friends and family sitting still, sweating it out, not even motivated enough to get into the car to drive to a lake to cool off one of those days. While the Georgia heat pushes your face into its red dirt and you search and gasp for air that doesn’t match your body temperature, Maine humidity and heat at least gives a few breaths of breeze for respite.
This orzo salad is a nice one to serve on a hot day without air conditioning. All the prep work can be done the night before, choosing nighttime when it’s cooler and less conspicuous using a stove and adding to the indoor heatwave. Most of the work involves chopping vegetables and watching the orzo cook. In theory, it’s easy to employ mature children who can wield knives to help. Which did not happen in my house. Which usually doesn’t when small eyes are distracted away by tiny video screens.
Since I was too tired the night before and possibly distracted by a small video screen, I elected to make this solo on the Fourth of July when everyone else was out at the local Independence Day parade, miserable in the sun and heat. I was hot too, though in the shade over a stove didn’t seem quite as bad. Peach first proclaimed this was one of her favorite salads when she first tried it at a neighborhood potluck (thanks, Nicole!), then less excited about it in my permutations since then. It’s a solid salad for any event and keeps well for days in the fridge if any remains for packed lunches, hopefully eaten in the comforts of air conditioning.
Two years ago: plum-cardamom jam
Three years ago: sugar cookie dreg cookies
Four years ago: scallops with mexican corn salad (elote)
Five years ago: angel food cupcakes with mascarpone frosting
- 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 box orzo (12 ounces is what I think the original recipe says, but I use a 16 ounce box.)
- 1 15-ounce can of garbanzo beans
- 2 pints fresh grape tomatoes, halved
- ¾ cup finely chopped red onion
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup chopped fresh mint leaves (I feel this amount mint overpowers other flavors and I partially replace some mint with more basil.)
- ¼ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon honey (replace with maple syrup if wanting vegan)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Heat the broth in a large saucepan. Bring to boil with cover on. Stir in the orzo. Crack lid and cook until orzo is tender but firm. Stir frequently while cooking, about 7 minutes.
- Strain orzo; keep strained broth for soups. (Note: It will look starchy and maybe even thicken up a little -- still ok for soup.)
- Transfer orzo to a large bowl and toss to cool. Set aside to cool completely. (You can pour a little oil on it to keep from sticking together.)
- Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette: Mix vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a blender, then add in oil with machine running. Or add all vinaigrette ingredients in a jar with a tight lid and shake vigorously. Add more salt and pepper to taste, if needed.
- Toss the cooled orzo with garbanzo beans, tomatoes, red onion, herbs, and vinaigrette. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. Keeps for days in the fridge.