Orzo Asparagus Salad

Spargelsaison is fun, but it can be a little one-note if you don’t have a variety of preparations for the stuff. If you’re lucky enough to have grilling weather while the asparagus is as its peak, this is a fantastic way to serve it alongside burgers or sausages. I found the original here and have posted my version below.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
250 g orzo pasta
at least 500 g green asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
about 300 g artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
1-1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, julienned
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

In a small skillet, heat olive oil to medium. Add shallot and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant. Set aside.

Cook orzo in salted water for 1 minute less than package directs. Add asparagus to orzo for last 2 minutes of cook time but no more! You want the asparagus to be bright green and still a little crispy when you drain the pasta. After draining the orzo and asparagus, run cold water over it immediately, agitating it frequently to make sure there are no pockets of heat. After draining and cooling, pour orzo and asparagus into a large salad bowl. Add artichokes and tomatoes to orzo bowl.

Remove shallot & garlic to a small deep bowl. Add lemon zest and juice, vinegar, salt and pepper to bowl. While whisking, drizzle in olive oil. Pour dressing over salad, stir thoroughly, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours. Stir again before serving.

Esquites – Mexican Corn Salad

I’m kind of agnostic on fresh corn. It’s good and I’ll eat and like it if someone serves it to me, but I’m rarely moved to do anything with it myself. Plus, I get sick of flossing after a cob. So when I found this recipe on the food blog Serious Eats, I wasn’t hugely hopeful. I just thought it might make a good side with grilled meats. Then I made a test batch and we decimated the bowl.

When you make this, you might be tempted to up the spicy elements. Try to resist the first time – you don’t want the spiciness to overshadow the fresh and sweet flavors at play. And be very sparing with the salt – you get a nice punch from the cheese.

2 T vegetable oil
4 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed (about 3 cups fresh corn kernels)
pinch salt
2 T mayonnaise
2 oz (50 g) feta or cotija cheese, crumbled
1/2 c finely sliced green onions
1/2 c fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and stemmed, finely chopped
1 medium clove garlic, pressed
juice of 1 fresh lime
pinch chili powder

In a non-stick skillet, heat oil over high heat until shimmering. Add corn kernels (careful – they’ll probably pop and splatter) and stir until well distributed, then allow to cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes. When you stir, the bottoms of the kernels should appear browned and caramelized. Add salt and cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally and browning corn on all sides without burning. Remove corn from heat and allow to cool completely.

After cooling, add remaining ingredients, stir well and enjoy!

Wild Rice & Broccoli Salad

We finally got a grill! And we know how to use it and how to make most of the meaty deliciousness we plan on cooking with it.

So…um, now what? We need accompaniments to the meat explosion. Nice, vegetabley salads are the next hurdle. We generally don’t do salads that need to chill, due to lack of fridge space, but they go so well with grill fare that we might need to clear out some room. This recipe (original is here – measurements are my own) was the side to our inaugural grill usage and we ate it – and enjoyed it – the same day. However, Cliff took the leftover for lunch the following day and said it tasted quite a bit better after the flavors had time to mingle. If you can plan ahead, make it the day before you plan on eating it.

And feel free to tinker with the measurements. I certainly did.

1/2 lb (250 g) wild rice, dry
raw broccoli, 1 lb (500 g) head, cut into florets
3 oz (80 g) goat cheese, crumbled or diced
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1-2 t honey
1 clove garlic, pressed
fresh rosemary

Cook rice, according to package directions, and allow to cool completely. Mix cooled rice, broccoli florets and goat cheese in a large bowl. Whisk together lemon zest, juice, honey, garlic and rosemary and toss with rice mixture. Chill (at least 4 hours, preferably overnight) and serve.

Mustard Jar Salad Dressing

This less an actual recipe than a logical thought progression. It blew up on the internet a couple of months ago and we finally almost emptied a mustard to give it a try. Your jar needs to have a tight-fitting lid because you just shake it up in there. And it calls for Dijon mustard, but you can probably use whatever’s on hand – just adjust salt and sugar accordingly.

1 T Dijon mustard, in its jar
1/4 c white or red wine vinegar
3/4 c olive oil
1/2 t sugar
1/2 t salt
pinch ground black pepper

Put all ingredients in jar, screw on lid and shake until emulsified. Taste and adjust spices.

Here’s an example of how to adjust the method: we had honey Dijon, so I omitted the sugar. I also used sherry vinegar. Other good herbs with mustard include tarragon or rosemary.