Another simple & fresh vegetable salad, silky with eggplant and as fiery as you like (or not!)
Orzo & Eggplant Salad
Serves 6-10 as a side, 4-6 as a main course
For the dressing:
1 lemon, juice and zest
1 orange, juice
1 small shallot, slivers
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp fennel seed
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
Pinch red pepper flakes
More salt to taste
For the salad:
1 eggplant, 1/2 inch slices
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta (rice shaped)
1/2 cup broccoli florets, blanched
1 or 2 ears of corn, blanched, kernels cut off
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Preheat your oven to 375F. Boil and salt a really big (you’ll see why in a sec) pot of water.
Film the eggplant with a little olive oil, (yep, I use my fingers–otherwise I’ll just keep pouring on the oil!) sprinkle with salt, and roast on a baking sheet for 20 – 30 minutes, or until the surface is a little brown, and dry. Let it cool a bit before gently dicing. Don’t worry if it falls apart. Just make sure any bits of the eggplant’s skin are cut small enough to eat in one bite.
While the eggplant roasts, cook the orzo until tender. You can also drop your broccoli in there (it’s easier if you cook a big piece of broccoli and cut it up later) with a colander, or just fish it out with a slotted spoon when it’s cooked how you like it. Corn can go into the pasta water too, but I forgot to do that tonight, so I stirred the kernels into the hot pasta after draining it, and that was all the cooking the corn needed.
Meanwhile combine the citrus juices, zest, garlic, and shallots in your serving bowl (a two quart one is a good size). Crush the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes (if you’re using them), & 1/2 tsp salt together in a mortar & pestle, or on a cutting board with a small sturdy glass. Toss that into the juice mixture and stir. Let it stand while you chop the eggplant, tomato, and parsley.
Gently mix together the dressing, pasta, and chopped vegetables. Serve warm, or chill for later.
I made this without any olive oil in the dressing, as I was loading up our pizza with olive oil tonight (too similar!) and I think the chilled salad tastes better without it, or with a bit drizzled on top just before serving.
If you know you’re going to eat it later, you might want to keep the broccoli separate until serving time. The citrus juice will make it go a kind of tired olive drab color after 30 minutes or so.
You’ll notice I didn’t bother salting and draining my eggplant. I’ve never found any overwhelming bitterness when skipping that step, and since we’re really drying it out some as we roast it, the moisture isn’t going to collect and ruin the final dish (as it might in lasagne,etc.).
This would work just as well with Israeli couscous. If you want to avoid the pasta, use 3-4 cups of cooked barley.