Sunday, June 26, 2011

Orzo Picnic Salad

Serves 15 – 20 as a side dish

1 lb Orzo Pasta

3 quarts boiling water

2 tsp Adobe salt or regular salt

In a large pot boil water. Add salt and pasta. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and allow to boil for 10 minutes. Rinse and drain in colander. Place Pasta in a mixing bowl.

1/3 C vegetable oil

3 TBLS red wine vinegar

1 TLBS parsley flakes

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Mix together. Stir into pasta while it is still warm. It will absorb the flavors more thoroughly before it has cooled.

1 small jar artichoke hearts, drained and cut into small pieces

½ medium red onion, chopped

1 small green pepper, chopped

5-6 slices roasted red pepper, cut into small pieces

½ can pitted whole or sliced black olives, drained

½ jar green olives with pimento, drained

1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 15 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 C grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

approximately 2 dozen cherry tomatoes, halved

Add artichokes, onion, peppers, olives, beans and grated cheese to the Orzo/oil and vinegar mixture. Toss. Gently stir in halved tomatoes. Cover and cool a few hours or overnight in refrigerator before serving. This allows the salad to marinate in the dressing. Serve cold.

FOODNOTES: I saw a ready-made orzo salad several years ago in a grocery store deli. The price per pound made me think I could make it for much less. I know it had vegetables in it, although I don't remember exactly what. I thought of what ingredients would go well in an orzo salad. The above is merely a suggestion. I've also had it with eggplant, spinach leaves and feta cheese. Certainly, there are many wonderful ingredients that could be substituted; asparagus, snap peas, radishes, celery, corn, grated carrots, zucchini or summer squash. The ingredients in this recipe represent all six food groups: protein, starch, vegetable, fruit (tomato is technically in the fruit family), dairy, and fats (a scant amount, at that).

I first made this salad, as above, with the dressing, but with only vegetables. Later, the addition of beans and shredded cheese sounded yummy to me. I got daring and made this for my church's Rally Day, which takes place in early September each year. The children register for Sunday School and then the entire congregation has a picnic out behind the church.

One year, before we had picnic there was an activity for the children, They dipped their hands in fabric paint, then made hand prints on a large white cloth (they washed their hands before the picnic!). This colorful cloth then became a part of our sanctuary, adorning the alter in the front of the church as lovely reminder that children are a special part of God's family. I love to see the little ones taking an important part like this and growing up feeling a special place in our church family, just as I did.

I have fond memories of church school picnics from my childhood. These memories play a big part in how I view summer picnics and potluck suppers. I like to think BIG when I plan for a get together with friends or family.

Many of us bring salads to the Rally Day picnic. Hot dogs and hamburgers sizzle on the grill. It is a fun time for both young and old. It's that time of year when the shadows are noticeably longer midday and the days begin to grow shorter. Sometimes there is a hint of cool fall breezes, but other days are tinged with a hot summer sun beating down on our heads. Children have just returned to school. Many of us have recently left leisurely summer beach days, sailing, or vacations in the coolness of the mountains to return to our former lives, the routines that help define who we are. It is this time of year that I know I will see more of my friends. We will share many good times together over food and drink. I can't think of a better way to start the new season than with an all-church family picnic.

As I write this I am reflecting on the wedding I attended today, June 26, 2011. I also made this salad for this wedding reception. It was a congregational event:. A wedding reception potluck dinner! and it was a first for me. The food was simply wonderful, made up of homemade dishes, of course. It lent an air of nostalgia - an old-fashioned summer wedding, eons before there were caterers. Life was simpler then. It was refreshing to go to a wedding where everyone had a special role in the food preparation. It was downright down home. I would love to see more wedding receptions take place in the church parlor “catered” by friends and family who lovingly prepare one of their tried and true favorite family dishes for the wedding feast. Food certainly has a way of uniting people.

©Wilma Carolyn Johnson Short

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