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07/10/2012

~ Lemony Orzo & Shrimp Salad w/Cucumber, Feta & White Balsamic Vinaigrette, or: What I Cook for Me ~

PICT0011Every once in a while... scratch that.  Every once or twice a year, I have a day off.  I mean a real day off, just to wander around my own little paradise and do whatever I want.  What constitutes a real day off for me?  Here it is:  The housework, my blog and my e-mails need no immediate attention.  I have no appointments or commitments and my phone isn't ringing off the hook.  My husband is out-of-town for the day (and he took my mother-in-law with him... to visit her family). It's just me without makeup and three poodles... watching VOD, leafing through cooking magazines and having fun on Facebook!

PICT0004On a day as laid-back as this, I could easily have Chinese food or a pizza delivered, but I rarely do that. With the push of a button on the microwave, I could nuke any number of homemade entrees I have on hand in my freezer, but I rarely do that either.  What I like to do is, take a look in my pantry and a peek in my refrigerator and emerge with ingredients that appeal to me at that given moment and turn them into a quick meal... just for me.  Today I'm putting together a simple, quick-to-make salad using a couple of ingredients leftover from last weeks blog posts (white balsamic vinaigrette and feta cheese), and, cooked shrimp leftover from the 4th of July weekend.  What's more, this recipe will make enough to feed my family a light and refreshing picnic lunch tomorrow! 

PICT0003For the white balsamic vinaigrette:

1  cup white balsamic vinegar

1/2  cup vegetable oil

1/2  cup sugar

2  tablespoons Dijon mustard

~ Step 1.  In a 2-cup food storage container with a tight fitting lid, place all ingredients.  Vigorously shake until thoroughly combined. Set aside while preparing the salad as directed below.

Note:  Leftover dressing can be stored in the refrigerator indefinitely. Remove from refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature prior to vigorously shaking and serving as directed in specific recipe.

PICT0002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For four-six servings of salad:

2  cups orzo, cooked al dente, rinsed under cold water, well-drained

1  pound cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails-off, chopped into bite-sized pieces

1  Kirby cucumber, peeled, seeded, quartered and sliced, about 1 1/2-2 cups

6  ounces Feta cheese, cut into small cubes, about 1 cup

1/2  cup thinly sliced green onion

1 1/2-2  tablespoons minced, fresh dill

1  cup white balsamic vinaigrette (from above recipe)

1/2  teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning

1 lemon, zest and juice 

additional dill sprigs for garnish

freshly ground peppercorn blend

6a0120a8551282970b0154327d024b970c-320wiA bit about Orzo:  Orzo (OHR-zoh) is a tiny rice-shaped pasta, slightly smaller in size than a pine nut.  It is a great substitution for rice and is a wonderful addition to hot soups and cold salads.  It is used a lot in both Greek and Italian cooking, and, "orzo" is the Italian word for "barley". I've posted several very special recipes featuring orzo on Kitchen Encounters.  Just enter "orzo" in the search on my home page! 

6a0120a8551282970b014e889ddef5970d-320wi

~ Step 1. In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5 quarts of water to a boil. Gradually sprinkle in the orzo, adjust heat to a steady simmer and cook until al dente, about 6-8 minutes.

6a0120a8551282970b014e889de249970d-120wiDrain and rinse under cold water, using your fingers to stir the orzo to ensure it is cooled to below room temperature.

PICT0004~ Step 2.  Transfer the orzo to a 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Set aside to "dry" (meaning "free from moisture" not "dry out"), about 30-45 minutes.  While pasta is drying, prep all remaining ingredients as listed above.

PICT0002~ Step 3.  Place the orzo, shrimp, cucumber, feta, green onion and dill in a large mixing bowl.  Using a large rubber spatula, stir to thoroughly combine.

~ Step 4.  Add the lemon pepper seasoning to the white balsamic vinaigrette and vigorously shake.

~ Step 5.  Add all of the vinaigrette to the salad, stir to combine, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-2 hours or overnight.

PICT0010Note:  While you might be inclined to add tomatoes or other vegetables to this salad (to add color), I don't recommend it.  This salad is scrumptious just as it is!  

If it's color you want, break out a colorful set of salad bowls.  These hand-made and hand-painted bowls are made by the artist Janis Childs of Key West, FL.  To order Janis's one-of-a-kind bowls:  janischildsdesigns@gmail.com!

At serving time, add the zest of 1 lemon and all of its juice.  Briefly toss and portion into 4-6 salad bowls.  Garnish with additional dill sprigs and freshly ground peppercorn blend:

PICT0005Lemony Orzo & Shrimp Salad w/Cucumber, Feta & White Balsamic Vinaigrette, or:  What I Cook for Me:  Recipe yields 8 cups or 4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup food storage container w/tight-fitting lid; 8-quart stockpot; colander; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; cutting board; chef's knife; large rubber spatula; plastic wrap

6a0120a8551282970b014e88a2c586970d-800wiCook's Note:  For another one of my Summertime orzo salad recipes ~ A Chilled Meditterranean-Style Tuna & Orzo Salad ~ can be found in Categories 1, 2 & 14!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)

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