So, as we continue to enjoy our British Summer, I am celebrating the abundance of seasonal vegetables available at this time of the year. And as birds chirp early in the morning of long, sunny, warm summer days, the variety of vegetables, bought or home grown, really allows me, as a home cook to get creative in the kitchen. Resulting in my Roasted Summer Vegetable Orzo Salad, a tasty celebration of easy summer cooking, making the most of seasonal vegetables.
A Make Ahead Marvel
While packed full of roasted veggies in a lemon vinaigrette, this dish can either be served on its own, or as a colourful side dish. Since it can be served warm, it is a perfect barbecue or buffet dish. Especially, when made in advance and left to sit for a few hours, the flavours develop, enhancing the overall deliciousness. So easy to prepare and make ahead!
Although I enjoy a crunchy pasta salad, there is something very comforting in the softened, roasted vegetables here. While roasting they become slightly sweet, with a mere hint of caramelisation. And their flavour is enhanced by the fresh lemon juice in the vinaigrette. Also orzo provides the perfect bite, complimenting the vegetables. Resulting in a dish that lets the vegetable flavours shine, without being overly bulked out with pasta.
Recipe: Roasted Summer Vegetable Orzo Salad serves 6
2 Bell Peppers – deseeded
1 Red Onion – skin removed
1 Large Fennel Bulb – or 2 small
400g Dried Orzo (ensure you use vegan pasta if making for Vegans) – I use Waitrose own brand
20ml Olive Oil
1 Large Lemon – 20ml of juice
40ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil – I use Filippo Berio
1/2tsp Sea Salt plus 1tbsp for cooking the pasta – I use Maldon
1/2tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Handful of Fresh Parsley – flat or curly
Note: individual vegetables may be substituted according to preference.
Method: Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan, gas mark 6, 400F
Preparing And Roasting The Vegetables
- First of all, wash and thoroughly dry the vegetables. Follow by chopping into equal 1″/2.5cm pieces.
- Transfer to a large baking tray.
- Drizzle over a generous tablespoon of olive oil and one quarter of a teaspoon of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Using clean hands, toss the vegetables in the seasoned oil, taking care to cover each piece.
- Spread the vegetables out on the tray. During the cooking process they will reduce slightly in size.
- Place the baking tray into the centre of a preheated oven and roast for 30-40 minutes, turning the vegetables halfway through the roasting time.
- While the vegetables are roasting cook the orzo and make the lemon vinaigrette.
Bringing All The Ingredients Together In One Tasty Dish
- Place a large pan of cold water on the hob and bring to a boil. When boiling add 1 tablespoon of sea salt and then add the orzo.
- Squeeze the fresh lemon juice into a small, clean jar that has a fitted lid. Add the extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Place the lid securely on to the jar and shake vigorously to combine.
- Cook the orzo according to packet instructions, removing from the heat and draining 2 minutes before the finished cooking time.
- Place the drained orzo into a bowl and pour over the lemon vinaigrette. Fork through the orzo to ensure the vinaigrette covers each small piece, stopping the pasta from forming clumps.
- When cooked the vegetables will be softened, allowing a fork to easily pierce. In addition, some pieces may be slightly charred at the edges.
- Spoon or tip the roasted vegetables on top of the orzo.
- Gently, use two forks to mix the roasted vegetables into the Orzo.
- Finally, roughly chop a handful of fresh parsley, discarding the stalks and scatter over the salad.
If making the same day as eating, cover with cling film and leave on the work top. Alternatively, when making the day before, leave out the parsley, cool, cover and store in the fridge. Finally, to serve, allow to sit at room temperature for one hour and garnish with freshly chopped parsley.
Since this salad is so versatile, it can be served alongside grilled chicken, salmon, or burgers and ribs at a barbecue. Likewise, it can also be served on its own as a tasty vegetarian or vegan meal.
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So, to sum up, when shopping in large supermarkets it’s easy to become disconnected with seasonal vegetables. Because of transportation most ‘summer’ vegetables can be easily obtained throughout the year. Since large, super greenhouses have cropped up across the country, most notably in Thanet, Kent, the effect on home grown produce has been to lengthen its season. Consequently, allowing the British public to buy British produce, rather than imported. Something I fully encourage and strongly support.
Yet, even with this consideration, there is little to rival the fun of blackberry picking in August and September. Most importantly, connecting us all to nature and the natural season of harvest.
So, whatever you are making, baking and creating in your kitchens, have fun preparing our feast.
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