Thursday, January 4, 2024

Resolving to Eat More Vegetables for Dinner: Caprese Orzo Salad

In January, we eat healthier! Here, let me show you.


This is our go-to lately for healthy meets crowd-pleasing. It makes a big enough batch for five decent-sized dinners (supplemented with another veggie side, in this case roasted delicata squash) and next-day lunches for two. My middle schooler brings it in a thermos to school as a break from the tragic tedium of sunbutter and jam sandwiches, which he has opened his lunchbox to discover in disappointment approximately 840 times in the last 7.5 years. (I just did some actual math to come up with that estimate and now can see why he's over it.)


I start with a bunch of baby greens, chopped with kitchen shears into bite-sized bits. Then I add halved baby tomatoes, orzo, shallot, a good amount of basil, fresh mozzarella pearls, chickpeas (or sometimes brown or green lentils that I cook for ten minutes in salted water before adding the orzo and shallot) and a drizzle of vinaigrette. Toss and let's eat. Except not so much let's eat right away, because this is a good make-ahead option, so it's more like, toss and put in fridge for folks to grab in between evening commitments, which are many during this thick, frenetic, delightful era we currently occupy.

If you try it, I hope you like it! And I also hope that someday, after my children have fled the nest but before the world's gone post-electric, this website can be a resource to them when they crave mom's food but just can't stomach another SBJ sandwich.

Caprese Orzo Salad
Yield: 6 servings

1 cup orzo
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
5-oz bag baby spinach or baby kale (or any kind of sturdy but soft greens you like, about 3 cups)
1 pint tiny tomatoes
1 1/2 cups cooked or canned, drained chickpeas
8-oz package of mozzarella pearls (drained if they are water-packed)
Big handful of basil
Your favorite sweetish vinaigrette (or mine, see below)

Optional additions that are nice if you like these things: big handful of parsley, tablespoon of capers, chopped up artichoke hearts or olives from a can

Bring about a quart of salted water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add orzo and shallot and cook until al dente (about 8-9 minutes). Strain and set aside to cool in strainer.

Meanwhile: chop up your spinach and halve your tomatoes. Thinly slice your basil and any other additions you're going with. Put everything in a large bowl, drizzle with vinaigrette, and toss. Taste and add some more salt, pepper, acid (lemon juice or vinegar), or oil if needed.

For my "vinaigrette," I just drizzle/zest/sprinkle all these ingredients on the salad before tossing (amounts listed are best-guesses. Of course adjust according to your palate's preference!)...

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey or agave or date syrup (Trader Joe's sells a tasty, affordable date syrup, which is the drizzle you see in the photos)
Zest and juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon Penzey's lemon pepper (which has salt in it AND which makes everything taste delicious)

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