May is National Salad Month! That’s right, salad gets a whole month to itself to celebrate how awesome it is. Mother’s Day is also coming up and it’s about time I start sharing stories about the inspiration for all my culinary adventures and the person who taught me how to cook: my mom. Well, I’m kicking off National Salad Month with a non-traditional salad: Vegetarian Orzo Parsley Salad. Although this recipe is not one that my mom has shared with me, my mom loves fresh parsley, so I think she would like this salad too. Parsley is a significant part of this dish, and whenever I smell fresh parsley, it reminds me of times in the kitchen with mom, making pasta sauce for Sunday “dinner”. Being Italian, this dinner would take place at 2pm. If you’re not Italian, this time probably sounds strange. If you are Italian, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Of COURSE you eat dinner at 2pm on Sundays. Dinner also consisted of pasta and 5ish other courses. It was quite an event. I miss it. Being the little piglet that I was growing up, I LOVED Sundays.
Ok. Back to the superstar: Parsley. One of my jobs as a little kitchen helper was to pluck the leaves off the parsley bunch so my mom could put it in the chopper to add to the red sauce (called gravy in our family). My mom always liked to put extra parsley on her pasta. She also adds fresh parsley to meatballs, chicken soup, stuffing for peppers and probably a ton of other things that I never realized. So, Happy Mother’s Day Mom! Here’s another recipe you can load up with parsley!
This salad screams Spring to me. Fresh parsley gives the salad a bright taste, that is crisp and refreshing. It makes a great side dish to grilled burgers, steak or chicken. It is also good on its own, and you can add some cannellini beans to it to spike it with a little protein if you want it as a main meal. What is so great about this salad?? It’s versatility. This salad is delicious hot OR cold. Another bonus: The Baby Bella mushrooms used in this dish are so flavorful and meaty, you will hardly notice there is no meat in this salad. Also, just like all of my recipes, this dish is easy to make and takes the amount of time it takes to boil pasta. So what are you waiting for?!! Make some orzo salad!
Those are some good lookin’ mushrooms. I know a lot of people don’t like mushrooms, but really, I beg you to try baby bella mushrooms. Baby bella mushrooms, also known as cimini, are just young portobella mushrooms. They have a subtle taste and a meaty texture. Baby bella mushrooms are an excellent source of selenium, B vitamins and potassium.
Alright, enough with the nutritional lecture. Let’s make some Orzo Salad!
Dice up some onion and garlic and place in a large pan on medium heat and saute with some olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to your onions/garlic.
Slice up the mushrooms and add them to the sizzling onions and garlic in the pan. Cook mushrooms with onions and garlic for about 7-10 minutes. Onions should be soft and translucent.
Make sure you use a large enough pan. Your mushrooms need space! Don’t crowd the mushrooms. If you like a little kick to your salad, put in a touch of crushed red pepper flakes to the mushrooms. While your mushrooms are cooking down, cook your orzo pasta in salty water. I had some extra broccoli in the house, so I added this to just warm up in the pan with the mushrooms for about 2-3 minutes. ***I LOVE my cast iron pan. I cook almost EVERYTHING in this pan and it only cost me about $20 at a big box store (Kmart/target/walmart) It is a an essential cooking tool in my kitchen.
Next, prep that parsley! I usually buy flat leaf parsley, but you can use curly parsley if you like. Grab a really good handful of the washed leaves and give them a good rough chop, and set aside. The dish’s superstar is now ready! When the orzo is cooked al dente, (or how you like your pasta – just don’t make it mushy) drain the pasta, and save about 1/4 cup of the cooking water. DO NOT RINSE the orzo. You want the starch to stay on the pasta. Then place orzo in the pan with the cooking mushrooms and toss together. You could also instead add the veggies to the orzo pot, if doing this or if you are not tossing the orzo directly with the veggies, drizzle a little olive oil over the orzo to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
After the pasta and veggies are well mixed, toss in all the delicious parsley and mix some more. Add a little salt and pepper to taste. If your salad is a little dry, you can add a little of the reserved pasta cooking water.
I love eating my orzo salad this way. The best thing about orzo, is that it’s shape, lends itself to staying moist and not needing a sauce, but if you’re a person who can’t eat a salad without a dressing on top – you can drizzle a little garlic oil and a splash of lemon juice on top. See below for my super easy garlic oil recipe!
Now DIG IN and ENJOY!
Mmmm look at that veggie to pasta ratio! Lots of veggies in there!
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil (this is an estimate, enough to just coat your pan)
- ¼ cup of onion, diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 6 baby bella (crimini) mushrooms, sliced
- ¼ cup of broccoli, chopped (optional – you can substitute in almost any vegetable here – tomato, roasted asparagus, red bell pepper)
- ½ cup of uncooked orzo, cook in salty water per instructions on box
- ½ bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped (about a large handful)
- In a medium pot, boil salty water for orzo*
- Coat a large pan (I use a cast iron pan) with olive oil and warm on medium heat. As the pan is still warming, add onions and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add sliced mushrooms to the same pan, and cook for about 7 minutes, until onions are translucent and mushrooms are soft. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and crushed red pepper flakes to onions/garlic and mushrooms as they are cooking
- Add the broccoli and cook just until warm, about 2 minutes. You want your broccoli to add some crunch
- While your veggies are cooking, add orzo to boiling, salty water (or chicken stock) and cook per instructions on your pasta box (about 10 minutes)
- Drain orzo and reserve ~ 1/4 cup of cooking water – DO NOT rinse your pasta, you will lose the moistness,
- Immediately toss the orzo and veggies together –if needed, add a little pasta water to moisten it up. Add in parsley and mix until combined. **
- Add some salt and pepper to taste
* I stress the salty water here because you are not putting a sauce on the orzo, thus, the only time you have to flavor the pasta at all is during the cooking process in the water. You can also cook your orzo in chicken stock. That will give the pasta a very good flavor.
** If not tossing immediately with the veggies, drizzle a little olive oil on the orzo after draining and stir to prevent orzo from clumping. You can also just add a little pasta water to moisten up.
Recipe Source: Deliciousinadash.com
Easy Quick Garlic Oil
Adapted from Ina Garten
- ½ cup of olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- In a small saucepan, slowly warm up the oil to a simmer with the garlic cloves
- Reduce heat to low and cook for 5-10 minutes – until garlic is lightly browned – careful, so it does not burn
- Remove from heat and let cool
- Remove garlic and save for later (To spread on bread)
- Drizzle oil over anything!