Monday, July 26, 2010

Why Do They Call It "Orzo"

“Orzo? Sounds like a monster from a cheap foreign film.”   That was my husband’s reaction to the news that an orzo salad was on tap for dinner.  “What’s orzo again?” he asks.  “Rice-shaped pasta," I answer.  Says he, “If it looks like rice, it should be rice. Anyhow, I don’t like the name.”

Must run in the family. My mother-in-law can’t abide the thought of yogurt, in any form. Her face even kinda scrunches up when she says the word, eyes squinting, nose wrinkling. I have to admit, when she says “y-o-g-u-r-t," dragging out each letter, it doesn’t sound very appetizing. When her doctor recommended yogurt as an easy remedy for a stomach problem she was having, you can imagine how she groaned. She tried, God bless her, but she has trouble even getting down one of those little six ounce jobbies! I suggested Greek yogurt, thinking she’d like the thicker, richer texture. I told her that it would be just like sour cream and it would be great on a baked potato. She seemed open, even said, “That sounds pretty good,” but then said “Just don’t like the name.”

Same goes for tofu. Maybe it just sounds like toad food, or reminds her of toe jam, I don’t know. But it’s something she just can’t get by. (I haven’t given up on the Greek yogurt, though. I’m sure that once she smears it over a steaming baked potato, even a sweet baked potato, which she really loves, she’ll be a convert. I’ll report back later.)

But I was anxious to try the orzo salad, no matter what the word conjured up. Oldest daughter Renae had raved about it. Her eyes practically rolled back in her head describing it to me. So she rattled off the ingredients but promised to send the recipe. When it came, I did a quick inventory of the pantry, got the two things I needed from the store, and made the salad straight way.

She was right:   It’s wonderful. Just a great mix of textures and flavors, sweet, tangy, crunchy, all happening at the same time in your mouth. We should call it a Symphony Salad. I loved it. Now, the picture doesn’t make it look quite as appetizing as it really was. But you can probably see that with practically every forkful you’d get four or five pieces of different flavors all at once, blending so nicely together. It didn’t take long for the two of us (okay, a couple days) to clean it up. Even my skeptic husband declared that it was pretty good!

When Renae gave me the recipe she said that you could easily substitute feta for gorgonzola (I didn’t), dried cranberries for cherries (I did), and spinach for arugula (I used a packaged “spring mix”) so it’s a pretty flexible salad.

A salad by any other name . . . .

Tri-Color Orzo Salad
1 # orzo pasta
3 T extra virgin olive oil, plus 1/4 C
2 C fresh arugula
3/4 C gorgonzola cheese
1/2 C dried cherries
12 fresh basil leaves, torn
2 oz. pine nuts, toasted
3 T lemon juice
11/2 t salt
1 t black pepper

Cook orzo until al dente. Drain and put on a large cookie sheet tossed with 3 T olive oil, spread out and allow to cool. In a large serving bowl, gently toss pasta with remaining ingredients. Great fresh, but tastes even better with a few hours in the fridge to allow flavors to meld together.


  1. Orzo is one of my favorite side dishes. The possibilities are endless. I like it with halved cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and kalamata olives.

  2. Like mother like son, eh? Too funny! I love how the pine nuts in this recipe can slip in and look like the orzo, too! Sneaky sneaky pine nuts...


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