Thursday, April 28, 2016

Another Fun Salad: Orzo and Wild Rice Salad

The other day my husband made an off-hand comment about how much I enjoy entertaining.  I'd never really put much thought into it before, or considered myself much of a hostess to be honest, so I was a little taken aback when he said it so matter-of-factly.  I kind of batted his statement around in my head for awhile and realized that he's 100% right.  I really do love entertaining.

I love breaking out a bottle of wine, setting up a cheeseboard with fun crackers, meats, and olives.
I love having an excuse to pull out the tablecloth and fold napkins on holidays.
I love making up appetizers and delicious desserts.
If I was a 60's housewife I totally would have embraced the cocktail party and excuse to wear a cute dress and fill a punch bowl.

I love cooking.  Love.  You may have picked up on that fact.  Do you use Penzey's spices?  They sell these towels that say "Love People.  Cook them tasty food."  I fully embrace that sentiment.  It's a major way that I show that I care.
Anyway, so we had houseguests this past weekend and I was, of course, super excited and full of food plans.  We sipped wine and laughed as we stayed up way past my usual bedtime nibbling on yummy snacks (do yourself a favor and try Trader Joe's Blueberry Vanilla Chèvre.  Oh my...).  The next day we went wine tasting and enjoyed a stunningly beautiful Saturday afternoon.  By the time we got home my husband was smoking our favorite Spicy Smoked Ribs with Maple Glaze.  Thankfully I'd made the sides up the night before and all I had to do was throw the beans on and we were free to enjoy time with our guests while we waited on the ribs and Tri-Tip.

I'm all about sides that can be made ahead, so it works out nicely that my favorite thing about grilling out is the salad.
I'm pretty sure that I could live on fun salads.  Really.
Grain salads, pasta salads, creamy salads, whatever.

They're just so cool and refreshing, especially as the weather starts to warm up.  When I hear that we're going to be grilling for company the meat is a bit of an afterthought to me- I know if my husband is helming the grill it's going to rock no matter what he makes.

Nope, my first thought is what kind of fun salads I'm going to make for sides.  They're easy crowd pleasers, delicious, great to make ahead, and pretty much have endless possibilities- I rarely make the same salad twice, much to my husband's chagrin.

This time I went for an Orzo and Wild Rice Salad...sort of.
It was supposed to be orzo and wild rice.  Unfortunately I couldn't find orzo anywhere at the grocery store (Weird.  I know.) so I used a 38¢ package of "melon seed" shaped pasta from the Hispanic food section and it worked beautifully.  I also couldn't find wild rice (Seriously, what kind of grocery store doesn't have wild rice??) so I used a brown and wild rice mix.  I'm pretty sure the end result was texturally pretty darn close to the original recipe and didn't impact the flavor at all!

This recipe was absolutely a keeper- and I don't say that lightly as very few recipes make the "keeper" list in this house with all of the new recipes I'm always trying.  This would be a GREAT side for your upcoming warm-weather meals!

1/2 C wild rice
2 C water
1 C orzo pasta
1/4 C chopped red onion
3 Tbsp dried dried cranberries
2 Tbsp corn kernels, drained
1/4 C diced yellow bell pepper
1/4 C diced red bell pepper
3 Tbsp chiffonaded fresh basil
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp chiffonaded fresh basil
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 C canola oil
1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil

1. Bring the wild rice and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender but not mushy, 20 to 45 minutes depending on the variety of wild rice. Drain off any excess liquid, fluff the rice with a fork, and cook uncovered 5 minutes more. Once finished, spread into a shallow dish, and refrigerate until cold.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the orzo pasta, and cook until al dente, 7 to 8 minute. Drain, rinse with cold water, and chill.

3. Place the chilled rice and orzo into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the red onion, currants, corn, yellow bell pepper, red bell pepper, and green bell pepper. Season with 2 tablespoons basil, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, 1/8 teaspoon pepper, 1 1/2 teaspoons basil, and cumin. Slowly whisk in the canola and olive oils until emulsified. Stir the dressing into the pasta, and refrigerate 2 hours before serving.

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