I'm kind of a closet vegetarian. Don't get me wrong, I welcome a perfectly cooked filet mignon or pork tenderloin any day, but as far as my kitchen goes, I err on the side of veggie-filled main dishes. And this, my dear readers, is a veggie-filled dish you simply must try.
The recipe does require some steps, but no step is too demanding of a novice chef. Using my trusty grill pan, I grilled the zucchini and portobellos in four batches. While four batches might seem a little taxing, it actually allowed for just the right amount of time to prepare the other ingredients and dressing. I followed the recipe to a T with the exception of the fresh mozzarella (I added a few more ounces...I can't help myself). The flavors are amazing--fresh basil, crunchy yellow bell pepper, smoky veggies, tangy balsamic, peppery arugula--and even better is that the dish seems to multiply...like loaves and fishes multiply. I first served it with grilled chicken among four friends (all had multiple servings), and then there was enough to share with another friend the next day, and then I STILL had two more servings for lunch at school. See? Loaves and fishes.
Feel free to adjust the veggies to your particular taste, and since there's no mayo in this, serve it up at a neighborhood barbecue or a perhaps a picnic for two. I guarantee people will want seconds...thirds. And you'll have plenty.
Orzo with Grilled Vegetables & Sun-Dried Tomatoes
from Foster's Market
1 teaspon salt
1 pound orzo
1/2 cup olive oil
Safflower oil or canola oil, for oiling the grill
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
2 portobello mushrooms, stems discarded, caps wiped clean, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup julienned sun dried tomatoes
Juice of 2 lemon
1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 bunch or arugula or watercress, washed, drained, and stems removed
8 large fresh basil leaves, cut into very thin strips (chiffonade)
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut ino 1-inch cubes
Salte and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Additional basil leaves, to garnish, optional
- Bring to a boil 3 quarts of water in a large pot. Add 1 teaspoon salt and the orzo and cook 3 to 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the pasta is just tender. Drain the orzo, rinse, and set aside to drain again. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the colander, toss with the orzo, and set aside to continue to drain.
- Heat a grill pan to the smoking point over medium-high heat. (Or lightly oil the grill grates with the safflower oil and heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium-high.)
- Whisk together 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the vinegar in a small bowl. Lightly brush the zucchini and mushrooms with the olive oil mixture. Place the slices, a few at a time in the grill pan or on the grill grates and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side, until crisp-tender. Place on a plate to cool while the others are cooking.
- Mix together the sun-dried tomatoes, the remaining olive oil, remaining vinegar, and lemon juice in a bowl and set aside until ready to use.
- Coarsely chop the zucchini and mushrooms and place in a separate bowl with the orzo, yellow bell pepper, arugula, basil and mozzarella. Add the sun-dried tomato mixture, season with salt and pepper, and toss lightly to mix. Garnish with basil leaves if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve.