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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