Cathy says "I improvised this salad because I had seen something similar (I think) at Joanne Rizzo’s 50th birthday party and lusted after it. We had a massive quantity of houseguests and so couldn’t actually stay longer than a few minutes at the party, but I took a quick look at the fabulous-looking food to see what I would be missing and saw an orzo salad that looked something like this. We all went to a concert at Red Butte not long after, so I threw this together with a lot of things that we like—especially the beautiful, tiny Sweet 100 tomatoes from Dad’s garden. Caity went crazy for this salad, so it has become “hers”. It’s best of course made in the summer when you can get gorgeous vine-ripe sweet cherry tomatoes and wonderful sweet corn on the cob, but it’s not bad with substitutes at other times of year--as long as you are still getting as good and fresh ingredients as possible. It’s beautiful, delicate and delicious."
what you'll need:
Salad:1 box orzo pasta, cooked to al dente; drained and rinsed well with cold water
Small ripe, red or yellow cherry tomatoes, Sweet 100s if possible (the little packs of tomatoes at the grocery store work fine too, just cut them in half)
Fresh corn on the cob—boil briefly, then slice off of the cob. I use frozen corn when I'm in a hurry and it's still delicious.
Fresh mozzarella, "pearlini" (little tiny mozarella balls) are ideal for easiness, but if you can't find it then get whatever you can and just cut it into small bits.
Pine nuts, lightly toasted (Toast in a pan on the stove over low heat, or in the oven at 275-300. Watch closely and stir often; I have burned way too many of these over the years! If you’re really in a hurry, skip the toasting—but it does enhance the flavor and makes it a pretty light golden color.) I even leave these out completely a lot of times because I don't really notice that they're missing, and pine nuts are expensive!
Lots of fresh basil, cut into chiffonade (Pronounced the French way—like “shif-o-nod”. Rinse and pat or shake the leaves dry. Pull them off of the stems and put into small stacks. From the short side of the leaf, roll the stack tightly, then with a nice sharp knife, cut as thinly as possible into beautiful, delicate green ribbons.)
Freshly made basic vinaigrette with Dijon mustard (I forbid you to use bottled dressing for this—I mean it! The harsh flavors of bottled dressing would completely overwhelm the flavors of this salad—see instructions at the bottom for a simple vinaigrette—but you guys really do know how to do this!)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, if needed to taste
Basic Vinaigrette with Dijon:Vinegar (white wine preferably, but anything light-colored—tarragon vinegar, rice, regular white or even cider is okay)
Light olive oil (extra-virgin is too assertive for this. Use plain vegetable oil if that’s all you have)
Freshly ground black pepper
For the dressing...
Using the basic proportions of 1 part vinegar to 3-4 parts oil, pour some of each into a bowl.
Add some Dijon mustard to taste—say for 2 cups of dressing, maybe 2-3 Tbsp. mustard. Add salt (2 generous tsp. for 2 cups dressing—maybe a bit more), pepper to taste. Whisk vigorously with a whisk or a fork—or shake up in a jar.
Taste on a piece of lettuce or something to check your proportions and adjust accordingly. If way too vinegar-y, add more oil. If just a bit too vinegar-y add more salt. If too bland, add a bit more vinegar, or salt and pepper, or mustard. Whisk up just before using. Leftovers keep well in the fridge.
Now for the salad...
Put your cooled, drained orzo in a large bowl.
Add tomatoes, diced mozzarella, corn, pine nuts, and the basil chiffonade. Dress lightly with just enough vinaigrette (did I mention that it had better be homemade or don’t bother?), tossing lightly to mix.
Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary—perhaps a splash more of vinegar and some salt and pepper if it’s a little too bland.
Eat massive quantities, and savor the taste and feel of summer. Ahhhhhhh…