Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Confused pasta: tuna and orzo salad

on January 17, 2011

The first time I came across orzo was in the US (where else?!) on holiday in Florida, about 6 years ago.  We went to some restaurant and I ordered mahi mahi and I was asked if I wanted orzo with it.  I responded with a baffled look ;-% so the waitress explained that orzo is a cross between pasta and rice.  It tastes like pasta but looks like rice.  I meant to take a photo of it but I forgot and ate the salad before I thought about it!  Doh!  Sorry.  So, in case you don’t know what orzo is, here’s a royalty free stock photo of it!

And ever since I tried it in Florida, I’ve been fascinated with the stuff.  I think I’m mostly fascinated because it’s  confused.  It’s not really pasta and it’s not really rice.  For those of you who like to know and understand your food – this isn’t one for you.  If you’re baffled by cheesecake, stay away from orzo. If, however, you’re food-adventurous then orzo definitely worth a try.

It took several years to actually find it in the UK, beyond the expensive health food shops, but it’s now pretty readily available.  Its good for an accompaniment to food and it’s good in salads.  It’s great in soups too.  The smallness of the  grains makes it very easily adaptable. You can even make it into something like risotto, or more of a stew type thing.

I wanted something quick, healthy, and nutritious for lunch at work, that I could make from existing ingredients.  And I found this recipe via foodpress:

http://figandfennel.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/recipe-orzo-tuna-nicoise/

It seemed like quite a simple recipe, which was pretty key at about 8am this morning when I was panicking about what to do for lunch!  However, I didn’t have any spinach, hate anchovies and capers and the only feta I had was a tiny mouldy amount in the bottom of the cheese box!  So, as usual, I made my own variation.  I cannot honestly say mine is in any way a ‘nicoise’ salad, so we’re just going with tuna and orzo.  I excluded spinach but if I had some, I think it would have made a nice addition.  Alternatively rocket or some other interesting salad type thing (watercress etc) would be nice too.

Thinking about it now, a nice spicy addition would be some crushed garlic and finely chopped chillis in the dressing.  I have to say, it was a tad on the bland side.  I would definitely add more lemon juice next time too.  And maybe sundried tomatoes instead of fresh ones as they have a stronger flavour.  But even as it is, it was delicious, and filled me up when I was starving at lunch.

This recipe can easily be adapted to whatever you have in your cupboards.  Prawns or chicken would be nice too, or leave out for a veggie feast.  You can really put any veges in that go in salad.  Any kind of salad cheese too, would be nice as well.

Tuna and orzo salad

Serves 2

  • 150g orzo pasta
  • 1 egg, hard boiled
  • 50g (ish – handful) green beans, chopped into 1inch pieces
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tin of tuna, drained
  • 50g (ish) tinned sweetcorn
  • 10 cherry tomatoes halved, or 1 large tomato diced

For the dressing:

  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp wine vinegar (I used red)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt & pepper
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley (or mint or basil)
  1. Boil the orzo according to the packet instructions, and chuck you egg into boil in the water at the same time.  About 5-8 minutes before it’s cooked, add the beans and blanch these too.  Drain everything and run under cold water until the beans and orzo are cooled, then tip them into a large bowl.  Put the egg into the saucepan with cold water to cool down.
  2. Add the rest of the salad ingredients to the orzo and beans and mix well.
  3. To make the dressing, combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well.  Adjust with more vinegar, lemon or seasoning as desired.
  4. Add the dressing to the salad, mix well again.
  5. Finally, peel and chop the egg and add to the salad, mixing again.  Leave in the fridge for at least an hour for the orzo to absorb the dressing flavours.
  6. Enjoy the fruits of your culinary adventure into the unknown!
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