At our local discount store, Ocean State Job Lot, you never know what you'll find: garden hoses, fleece pajamas, super-cheap small appliances, chlorine pool tablets. As random (and fun) as the shopping can be, there are a few constants; the store stocks the entire line of Bob's Red Mill products, plus foods from around the world like pastas, nuts and spices. On a recent trip, I found whole wheat orzo, and that's what inspired this shrimp salad. I put it together with gently cooked shrimp and asparagus, out-of-season but too tempting to pass by at the supermarket. My "house" vinaigrette, of which there's always a jar in my refrigerator, pulled it all together. As good as this was on the day I made it, the leftovers were equally good the following day, and it will be a perfect salad for picnics in warmer weather.
Orzo and shrimp salad with asparagus, bell peppers and feta cheese
For the dressing:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup mild agave nectar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil (not fruity)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
For the salad:
1 cup whole wheat orzo (or other small pasta)
1/2 lb large (26-30 size) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, defrosted
12 medium asparagus spears, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper, any colors
2 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese
Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid, and shake the jar vigorously to emulsify (thicken) the dressing. Set aside. (This can be made weeks in advance, and stored in the refrigerator.)
Bring 2 quarts of water to boil in a small saucepan. Add the orzo and cook for 8-9 minutes, until al dente (just chewy). Using a slotted spoon or strainer, lift the orzo out of the pot (leave the cooking water in the pot), and rinse under cool water. Drain again, and add to a large mixing bowl.
Set a bowl of ice water next to the stove.
With the pot set over lowest heat, add the shrimp and asparagus. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the shrimp are pink and curled. Scoop out the shrimp and asparagus, and add immediately to the ice water to stop the cooking. After 30 seconds, drain, and add to the bowl with the orzo.
Stir in the bell pepper and feta, and toss with a few tablespoons of dressing, or just as much of the dressing as you need. (Store extra dressing in the refrigerator.)
Serve at room temperature or chilled.
More orzo, hot and cold:
Whole wheat orzo with cucumber, mint, feta, olives, and zahtar vinaigrette, from The Perfect Pantry
Salmon chipotle chowder with orzo and corn, from The Perfect Pantry
Spicy garlic roasted shrimp on lemon-parmesan orzo, from Back to the Cutting Board
Greek shrimp orzo, from Cookin' Canuck
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