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Orzo and Summer Squash Salad

September 21, 2011

This summer has zoomed by and I am all out of fresh zucchini and summer squash. A bit is in the freezer, but it’s not the same (as you well know). So, as an homage to the most versatile summer vegetable, I now present some of my favorite zucchini and summer squash recipes I tried this past summer.

One great success, Orzo with Summer Squash and Toasted Hazelnuts, was a hit when my family visited over Labor Day weekend. The original recipe, from the August 2003 of Gourmet magazine is a bit more tricky than what’s below, only because I’m not going to rub the loose skins off of the hazelnuts. But you may if you want to. If you have not cooked with it before, orzo is a rice-shaped pasta that is lovely to cook (fast!) and easy to eat. I find that the mouth-feel of it is quite delicate.

Orzo with Summer Squash and Toasted Hazelnuts

1 1/2 cups orzo (10 ounces)

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup finely chopped shallot (6 1/2 ounces)

2 medium zucchini (1 1/2 pound total), cut into 1/3-inch dice

2 medium yellow squash (1 pound total), cut into 1/3-inch dice

(Or 2.5 lbs of any combination of zucchini and summer squash.)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

3/4 cup hazelnuts (4 ounces), toasted coarsely chopped

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest

Cook orzo in a 4- to 5-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain orzo in a colander. While orzo is cooking, heat butter and oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté shallot, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini, yellow squash, salt, and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are just tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in nuts, parsley, basil, and zest. Add cooked orzo to skillet and stir gently. If mixture seems dry, moisten with some reserved pasta water. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

This makes a lot. Invite at least 7 friends over (cook other stuff, too) or plan on leftovers.

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