Too many tomatoes are never a problem. Perhaps the only challenge is maintaining self-control when passing the colorful piles of peak-season tomatoes at the market. Admittedly, they are hard to resist. Cherries, heirlooms and Early Girls in vibrant shades of the sun and summer challenge restraint. It’s easy to be greedy and fill the basket with an array of these beauties without a plan for how to use them. While I am not here to judge or to advise you on any indulgence issues, I do have a recipe to help you use your exuberant surplus.
This recipe is a wonderful summer salad with ingredients that scream “garden-fresh.” You might be tempted to call it a pasta salad, but as you can see, the emphasis is on the vegetables rather than a carb-laden bowl of pasta interspersed with a few green leaves. Dainty orzo steps into the pasta role. Its petite rice shape won’t overwhelm the bowl, allowing the tomatoes and greens to shine as they should. Fresh, creamy mozzarella and zippy Parmigiano-Reggiano round out the flavors, with a balsamic drizzle that binds the salad with a sweet and puckery kick.
Serve the salad slightly warm or at room temperature. You can cook the orzo in advance and refrigerate until assembling the salad.
Tomato, Arugula and Orzo Salad
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/3 cups orzo
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 ounces baby arugula, about 4 packed cups
6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut or torn into bite-size pieces
8 to 10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
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Whisk the vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil and whisk to emulsify.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain. Transfer the orzo to a large, shallow serving bowl and stir in the oil and salt. Cool to lukewarm or room temperature. (Alternatively, refrigerate the pasta until ready to use. Let stand at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before assembling the salad.)
Spread the arugula over the pasta, then add the mozzarella, tomatoes, olives and basil. Drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and gently mix to combine. Garnish with additional basil, the Parmigiano-Reggiano and a generous grind of black pepper. Drizzle with additional dressing to taste. Serve immediately.
Lynda Balslev is a San Francisco Bay Area cookbook author, food and travel writer and recipe developer.
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