Sunday, August 16, 2009

FoodTrek/MacGyver Meal: Disc-orzo Inferno

Not to toot the Pacific Northwest's horn yet again, but Seattleites know how to throw a party, and they do it with eccentric aplomb, complete with disco ball. Toot-toot! Beep-beep!

Dia de Los Disco / Come on Barbie, let's go party. Bring your pasties. - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I was fortunate to be invited to a summer BBQ at Casa de Awesome, thrown by the diva duo of roommies Jennifer and Kat. It had been an eagerly-anticipated fĂȘte, designed to celebrate the love of our rare summer months, as well as an equal love of food and drink.

Here's to swimmin' with bowlegged women. Another sangria and margarita, bartender! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

The party was complete with Bartender Nick who converted the kitchen into a full bar, serving up margaritas, mojitos, and his specialty, the old fashioned Sidecar. Hostess Jennifer brewed up her favorite white sangria in an Olympic-sized punchbowl that served as an example of fruit heaven, where peaches and citrus go to die.

The calm before the party storm, and partaking of SJB's meats. - Photos by Wasabi Prime

I went with fellow blogger, SJB, and we headed over early to help with some of the preparation and the skewering of meats and vegetables. After no major goring of hands had occurred during kebob-ification, SJB took on the role of Grill Master Flash, while hostesses J+K made their sweep of the party floor, with the force of two Auntie Mame's.

Party Animal, Mr. Tucker. Who let the dogs out? - Photos by Wasabi Prime

The party wasn't without its resident party animals, Tucker and Fisher. I was able to get a decent photo of Tucker, but Fisher was avoiding the paparazzi that night, too busy meeting and greeting guests and sniffing around to see what goodies had perchance fallen on the floor.

She's got legs, and she knows how to use them. Kat flashes her Blue Steel. BOOZE! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

The only thing the Prime was tasked to do was bring a salad. Expecting a guestlist up to thirty people, I went with the cater-friendly, giant aluminium turkey roaster pan and in typical MacGyver-cooking style, threw together an Italian-themed orzo salad. It's what I would like to call a "drunken salad" as I was in the middle of cocktail hour when making it the night before.

Orzo salad - the longer it sits out and festers, the better. - Photos by Wasabi Prime

In typical Wasabi Prime fashion, there was no real recipe. I just knew it needed to be a salad that could sit out at room temperature for several hours, vegetarian-friendly, made with basic ingredients that were familiar and pleasing to palates. In atypical Wasabi Prime fashion, I'm going to attempt to list the recipe below. I cut the ingredients by half, since I doubt you'll need enough to feed twenty-plus people, but it still makes plenty, so it's a great party recipe.

Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad w/ Herb Vinaigrette - serves up to 8-10

1 box/package of orzo (about 1 lb) / 1 large red onion, peeled and quartered / 2 zucchini, ends chopped and halved lengthwise / 1 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, cut in half / 1 container of cherry tomatoes / 2 cups drained/pitted kalamata olives / 2 cups crumbled feta cheese / 2-3 tablespoons olive oil / 1 tablespoon of dried oregano / 1 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper / 1 teaspoon kosher salt

Herb Vinaigrette Ingredients: 1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves / juice and zest of one lemon / 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil /salt + pepper to taste

Get to Business: Preheat oven to 420° F and make sure the baking rack is centered. Take a shallow baking pan and cover with foil for easy cleanup. Take the cut vegetables (onion, zucchini, bell pepper, and whole cherry tomatoes) and toss with olive oil, oregano, salt and pepper. Spread onto the baking pan -- use two if the vegetables don't all fit. Place in oven to roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables have roasted down and become soft.

Take a large pot and fill with water. Set on stove to start boiling the water for the orzo. As it gets to a rolling boil, throw in a healthy pinch of salt to flavor the pasta and toss the whole box/bag in. Stir constantly, as the pasta bits will stick together as well as to the bottom of the pot. Cook until al dente or cooked, but still firm; this will help it continue to soak up flavor from the dressing. Drain pasta and toss with olive oil to keep the grains from sticking while it cools.

While the orzo and roasted vegetables cool down, take a blender or food processor and pulse down the basil and lemon juice/zest. Drizzle in the olive oil as the blades chop the herbs down and incorporate with the lemon juice. Pulse in the salt and pepper, adding in small amounts so you can taste as it mixes -- add more as you see fit. Finished vinaigrette should taste like a lemony pesto with a loose consistency. Add more olive oil if it's too thick, as it needs to be able to easily mix with the salad.

Once the vegetables are cool to the touch, chop down into smaller bite-sized pieces. The cherry tomatoes should be fine as-is. Take the drained kalamata olives and run a knife through them for a rough chop and ensure there were no pits left in -- there's always one hiding in there. Crumble the feta cheese in and incorporate all ingredients, tossing with the finished herb vinaigrette. Can serve immediately or let it set in the fridge for a few hours to let all the flavor soak in. The dish can be made up to 24 hours ahead.

* Post-Script - Thanks to Serious Eats' Photograzing for posting the orzo salad ingredients!!

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  1. Normally I'm not that into orzo - Are you pasta or are you rice? Make up your dang mind!- But I think I would really enjoy this. Thanks for posting the recipe!

  2. Agreed, orzo is pasta with an identity crisis. It could be swapped with couscous, quinoa, or even left out completely. It just made for a good filler to stretch out the servings!

  3. Hey, WP! I really like your term "MacGyver Cooking," and since this is an activity I engage in almost every Monday (grocery day is Tuesday), I was thinking of starting a regular thing over at my blog: MacGyver Mondays, or something along those lines. Do you reckon that would be alright? With your blessings, I would give you sweet, sweet credit for putting the idea into my head. <3

  4. Very fun story. I love that pair of legs. So random. You guys are great at kebob-ification. the orzo salad you made looks pretty good too.


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