Sunday, August 10, 2014

Citrus Orzo Salad Re-Mixed

I love the last orzo salad recipe I posted. It was tasty. And sweet. And salty. And right up my alley. But there are a lot of folks out there that are not wild about capers, olives and raisins. So I did some experimenting this weekend and came up with a more conventional version. Well, I shouldn't put it that way, because there is nothing conventional about candied walnuts in an orzo salad. Plus I amped up the amount of sweet navel oranges, added more crunch with the addition of celery, and swapped out the creamy goat cheese for some extra tangy Gorgonzola. Serve this on a big platter or make up individual Bibb lettuce cups. It is a crowd pleaser!

Citrus Orzo Salad with Candied Walnuts

1 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
1 large onion diced
Kosher salt
1 cup uncooked orzo
Additional salt and pepper
1-3/4 cups water

4 scallions chopped
4 navel oranges supremed
2 stalks celery chopped
4 oz crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1 cup walnuts
3 T sugar
1 T unsalted butter

Salad Dressing:
1 clove garlic finely chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
1 T rice vinegar
Liquid from supremed oranges
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard

To make the orzo: (This is my mom's method, and it is no fail). In medium size saucepan on medium low heat, melt your butter and olive oil. Add the chopped onions and some salt and pepper. Cook uncovered on stovetop to soften the onions, not brown them. After about 5 minutes they will be translucent and ready to accept the orzo. Add the cup of orzo and coat with the buttery onions. Add a bit more salt and pepper (the orzo has absolutely no flavor if you do not season it). Stir to combine onions and orzo and let the orzo toast a bit (2-3 minutes). Add water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to the lowest simmer and cook 12-13 minutes. The orzo will still be a bit watery, but keep covered off the heat and all the liquid will evaporate.

While orzo is cooling, let's candy the walnuts. In large saucepan on medium heat add the sugar and butter. Mix to combine. Now add the nuts and coat them with the sugary liquid. Toast the mixture for about 3 minutes (that's all the time it takes). Just make sure to keep an eye on the walnuts so they don't burn.

As soon as the nuts are sweet and toasty, transfer them to a piece of parchment paper and separate them the best you can. You do not want clumps of nuts on top of your salad. Set them aside to cool.

To make the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a medium size jar and shake. Or just whisk everything together until it emulsifies.

Assembly: In large bowl combine scallions, orange supremes, celery, and cilantro.

Now add your Gorgonzola and cooled orzo.

If I'm making this dish ahead, I dress the salad with only half the dressing, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Then I  dress it again right before serving time. By the way, I like this salad served at room temp, but it is still delish served cold. And don't forget, liberally sprinkle those sweet, toasty walnuts on top of your salad right before serving.

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