Orzo Salad with Radish and Fennel

My family is afraid of vinegar.  I know, how can you be afraid of vinegar?  I didn’t believe it either, but it is true.  As soon as I take a bottle of vinegar out of the pantry, my family runs for the hills.  I am the only one that likes salad dressing (aside from my youngest, but she will only eat ranch dressing), and when I have to cook with vinegar, it is mandatory to open all the windows – even if it is cold and raining outside (oh, have I mentioned that we have only had 72 minutes over 75 degrees this year?), the windows need to be wide open for the smell to escape.  I have learned over the years that it is best to cook with vinegar when I am the only one in the house – and since that almost never happens, my vinegar bottles remain very full in the pantry – longing for me to find discrete ways to use them.

Because of the issue with vinegar, pasta salads are not very popular in our house.  I love them, and look for them every day in the salad bar at work – and for that matter, I cover my salad with balsamic vinegar every day.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light – and what caught my eye was the fact that it was missing a key ingredient – yes, vinegar!  I had to give it a try, I had nothing to lose – and I was able to keep the windows shut.  So, here was the funny part – it actually wasn’t that good the first night I served it.  The dressing was too strong, and the orzo and veges needed more time to marinate.  The next day though, it was awesome.  I had no intention of blogging about this, until I had the leftovers.  The flavors really came together in perfect harmony, music to my mouth.  So – give this one a try, but you must make it ahead of time and let it sit – it is definitely a pasta salad well worth the wait.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups diced fennel (about 1 bulb)
  • 1/2 cup chopped radish
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 3 tablespoons minced green onions
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted

Preparation

Cook orzo pasta with 1 tablespoon kosher salt according to the package directions, omitting additional fat. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain well.

Combine lemon juice and next 3 ingredients (through pepper) in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Add orzo, fennel, and the next 4 ingredients (through 1/2 teaspoon salt); toss well to coat. Cover and chill. Top with nuts before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Orzo Salad

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Jalapeno Corn Pudding

Growing up on the east coast, I looked forward to the short window that would open each summer when we would finally get fresh corn on the cob.  During that window, I think we had it with dinner almost every night.  If I remember correctly though, the window didn’t last very long, and then you were back to frozen or canned until the following year.

When I moved to Denver, the window seemed to be much bigger – it must have been because of the long hot summers we had.  One summer by boyfriend (now husband) decided he wanted to grow his own corn in our small 3×10 rectangle of land we called our garden.  He carefully mapped out just a small portion (since he didn’t want to give up on any of the other veges) of the plot to attempt the corn.  Sure enough, come August, we had a few ears of fresh corn to eat, right from our own garden.  It was pretty amazing.

Now we are here in Seattle, where the window for fresh corn on the cob is the biggest yet – it starts in mid-June and easily goes through August.  Seems a little counterintuitive, since we have only had about 3 days so far above 70 degrees, and barely any sun? But yes, the corn gets shipped in from Eastern Washington, and for the most part it is pretty good.  Nothing like right from the garden, but better than frozen or canned.

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit and even though the corn was not nearly as sweet as it will be this summer, the dish was still wonderful.  You definitely want to serve this immediately for best results, since it comes out of the oven nice and puffed up (due to the egg whites), but I was still eating leftovers a few days later, and warmed up in the microwave, it was still delicious.  It is perfect next to a delicious rack of ribs, or some other BBQ food – but we had it with some delicious Carnitas at a friend’s house, and it was the ideal side dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped seeded jalapeno chiles
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipped cream
  • 1 cup chopped roasted red peppers (from a jar)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup coarsely grated Manchego cheese or sharp cheddar cheese

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butt a 2-quart shallow baking dish.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, corn, jalapeno, and garlic; saute until soft, about 4 minutes.  Stir in cornmeal.  Add milk and cream; stir over medium heat until thick batter forms, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a large bowl.  Stir in red peppers, green onions, cilantro, 1 teaspoon salt, and pepper;  cool 15 minutes.  Stir in egg yolks. Using mixer with clean, dry beaters, beat egg whites in medium bowl until soft peaks form.  Fold whites into batter.  Transfer to dish.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Bake pudding until top is golden and center is just set, about 35 minutes.  Serve immediately.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Jalapeno Corn Pudding

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Summer Barley Salad

I have really started to like making salads out of barley.  It is much healthier than pasta, and has a great nutty flavor.  I have never much been into cold rice salads, so this is a perfect alternative.  I saw this recipe in Cooking Light, and I was so excited – I had been thinking about all the barley I had in the pantry, and how I was going to use it.

The first time I made barley, it turned out almost like a risotto – and even though when mixed with the rest of the ingredients, it still tasted great – for some reason I was just not satisfied with the texture.  The next time I made barley, I decided to rinse it after I was finished cooking.  That definitely did the trick – and the barley didn’t all stick together.  From now on, I always rinse the barley after I am done cooking it.  Not only does it cool the barley off, but the grains don’t stick to each other, and allows all the other ingredients to mingle in just the right way.

Now I just need to get my kids to start eating it…and when I do, then I know I was successful.  Even though the kids didn’t like this salad, all the adults I served it to LOVED it.  There were hardly any leftovers, and there were only 4 adults.  The flavors were wonderful, just perfect along side the grilled steak we had for dinner.  This is definitely a summer salad keeper.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2  cups  uncooked pearl barley
  • 1  cup  fresh corn kernels (about 2 ears)
  • 1  cup  diced seeded plum tomato (about 2 small)
  • 1/2  cup  chopped green onions
  • 1/4  cup  chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 20  kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 3  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 2  tablespoons  olive oil
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 3/4  cup  (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Preparation

Cook barley according to package directions, omitting salt. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain. Cool completely. Combine barley, corn, and next 4 ingredients (through kalamata olives) in a bowl. Combine juice and next 4 ingredients (through garlic), stirring well with a whisk; drizzle over barley mixture. Toss to coat. Sprinkle with cheese.

Serves 8 as a side dish.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Summer Barley Salad

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