With the impending heat wave coming through Atlanta last week, doing a lot of cooking and heating up my kitchen was not on the short list. So, in the pattern of my mother, Fran, I decided to prepare lots of hot weather food for the rest of the week. I started with some basics of pimento cheese and chicken salad. beyond that, I wanted something new, light, and fresh. Pasta salad came to mind, but I had no interest in the same old kind I always see. So, after some brainstorming, I came up with the following idea and recipe. Orzo with asparagus, sweet peas, and herbs. This turned out to be a great dish. It is light, crisp, and fresh. I’m very happy with the finished product. The procedure and recipe follow below.
Main ingredients: Orzo, asparagus, red onion, sweet peas, dill, mint.
This recipe is another perfect example of experimentation and throwing something together. I tried to keep track of the amounts as to share with you all. Note that this recipe makes a very large amount. I didn’t measure it as a whole, but it is around 25+ servings.
1 pound orzo pasta
half bunch of very thin asparagus
1 cup frozen sweet peas
2 Tbsp fresh chopped dill
2 Tbsp fresh chopped mint
1 small red onion, chopped. Should equal about ½ to ¾ of a cup.
Olive oil or similar.
1/3 cup White balsamic vinegar
salt & fresh cracked pepper
Boil the pasta to al dente and drain. Pour back into pot or bowl and add about half the oil. Stir, then pour onto a sheet tray to cool. The oil helps to prevent sticking. The orzo I used is a longer style and very delicate. Stir every few minutes to also prevent sticking.
Blanche the asparagus for just a minute. You want it to turn bright green, then take it out of the water and immediately plunge into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Do the same for the peas.
Chop the asparagus in small pieces, about 1/2″. Ideally, all the ingredients should be about the same size cut.
Finely chop the onion. Rough chop the dill and mint. (I rolled the mint leaves and sliced as one would basil leaves.)
Once the pasta has cooled, put in a large bowl and add the aforementioned ingredients. Stir gently.
At this point, I added the oil and vinegar. It was basically to my taste. I wanted a slight bite of the vinegar and the texture of the oil. Go easy and add a little at a time. You don’t want to pucker from the vinegar or have a greasy film in your mouth from the oil. I used sea salt at the end, just a little bit, to taste. Also I love fresh cracked pepper here, but it is not necessary if you don’t want it.
If you are wondering why I used white balsamic, there are two reasons. One is that balsamic is reduced, sweeter, and lacks the strong bite of regular vinegar. The other reason is that the color is light to clear, so it does not affect the overall color of the dish.
**Please note: Vinegar will alter the color of your veggies. They will go from bright green to a yellow-green within a few hours. No need to worry if you are serving within a few hours. However, if you are making this dish in advance, add the vinegar a little while prior to serving.
Chopped dill and mint.
Very finely chopped onion.
Blanched asparagus in ice bath.
I chopped the asparagus in small pieces, about half an inch. Notice the solor is still bright green.
The finished product! Makes for a lovely presentation on this purple glass!
What are you making that is similar to this? Do you have variations of it? Feel free to share.