Monday, June 2, 2014

Orangy Wheat Berry and Orzo Salad

Picnic season is upon us, and I have just the dish to make your potluck contribution stand out well above all the rest. I guess this dish could technically be considered a pasta salad because it features orzo as a a main ingredient, but its about as far away from the mayonnaise-slathered, insipid version as you can get. Spirited, zesty, citrusy, and spry; this Orangy Wheat Berry and Orzo Salad breaths new life into one of summer’s most iconic sides.
If the ingredients sound familiar, that’s because I poached the dressing (and wheat berries) to make my Arugula Wheat Berry Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette over the winter. I just couldn’t wait—the vinaigrette is literally drinkable! The combination of orange, white wine vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil is tangy and light: acidic enough for a little kick, but mollified by the oil for a taste that’s just right. I recommend using orange juice concentrate over regular orange juice if you can, the flavor is a bit more robust.
Colorful is this salad too, with large chunks of fresh oranges and bright green scallions dotting the tiny wheat berry spheres and ivory orzo. The texture variation is one of my favorite aspects: crunchy wheat berries, silky orzo, and fleshy orange segments, sprinkled with a generous garnish of biting scallions and steely pine nuts.
So, besides being delicious, what makes this salad picnic perfect? First of all, it can easily be made the night before without any sort of wilting. (In fact, I recommend doing this anyway to let the vinaigrette really seep into the ingredients. Just reserve the pine nuts until serving.) Second, it can be served cold or at room temperature, which works well for hours of sitting in a picnic setting. Third, it lends itself to a big batch—since the wheat berries take a long time to cook (its worth it though, I promise), make a ton and just eat it consecutively for a few days if not serving for a crowd. To transform the salad from a side dish to a main, top with grilled salmon or shrimp, and serve on a bed of greens. Consider chickpeas and goat cheese for a vegetarian option.    

Orange you glad I introduced you?!

Orangy Wheat Berry and Orzo Salad (from my Mama.)
Makes 6-8 side servings

1 cup orzo
1 cup wheat berries
2 oranges, peeled and chopped
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (or 1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate)
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil 
3 teaspoons pine nuts, toasted
3 scallions, diced
salt & pepper to taste

1. Cook wheat berries according to package directions. (Cooking time is approximately 1 hour, so start on these guys first.) When finished, place into a large bowl and let cool.
2. Cook orzo according to package directions. Let orzo cool, and add to bowl with wheat berries.
3. Reduce orange juice to a glaze in small saucepan. (If using orange juice concentrate, replace this step —as it is already reduced—with microwaving for 15 seconds or until no longer frozen.) When the orange juice reduction has cooled, mix oil, vinegar, and a generous sprinkle of salt & pepper into the saucepan.
4. Pour orange juice reduction into the large bowl, and mix thoroughly. Just before serving, sprinkle with the pine nuts and scallions.

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