26 May 2006
Sublimely silky and shiny, orzo is genre-defying.
It looks like rice! But it’s not rice! It’s pasta! But it looks like rice! But it tastes better than pasta!
After I assembled this delicious little orzo salad today, I started to wonder about how orzo came to be. And also I wonder how its creators came up with such a neat name for it. Orzo. Orzo. Orzo. What a great word!
Now that you, like me, might be wondering about the history of orzo, you may be expecting some answers. I am afraid I do not have any answers for you. Just now I spent a considerable amount of my evening researching the beginnings of orzo and the best story I found was one about an ancient restaurant owner who shellacked some pasta in order to display it appetizingly in his restaurant window, but then a stegosaurus came by and smashed the brittle pasta into bits with his tail. And that is how orzo came to be. I wonder if the stegosaurus’ name was Orzo. Probably.
Now that you have been enlightened, here is an easy recipe for a mouthwatering salad. There's a nice crunch from the carrots, celery and walnuts, but the sweet, golden raisins are why I keep making this salad.
Orzo with Golden Raisins.
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1 minced garlic clove (or more if you want a kickier taste)
1 heaping teaspoon honey Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
1 ½ cups orzo
1 cup peeled and diced carrots
1 cup chopped green onions (white and green parts)
½ cup diced celery
½ cup walnuts (you can toast them if you want to)
½ cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons of chopped dill or parsley
Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain orzo. Rinse with cold water if you are assembling the salad right away.
While the orzo is boiling, whisk the first 4 ingredients of the vinaigrette together. Add the olive oil in a slow stream while whisking. Season with salt and pepper.
Combine ingredients of the salad in a large bowl.
Add the vinaigrette, but don't add it all! If you do, your salad will be too slimy. You will probably have about a quarter cup of vinaigrette left over. Today I saved a portion of it for a future leafy salad. It is a rather tasty vinaigrette.