Orzo Pasta Salad with Roasted Eggplant, Zucchini, Red Peppers and Sweet Corn

Square white bowl with creamy orzo pasta salad with roasted red peppers, zucchini, and eggplant. On a blue and white striped tablecloth.

Cooking in the summer is so easy, it’s just a matter or picking out what looks best at the market on the way home from work (if you’re fortunate enough to live near fresh produce stands, that is). I love walking into the New Apple Market on West Broadway to admire whatever it is that’s new on any given day, sometimes picking out a bouquet of inexpensive peonies for my bedroom. Pasta salad is the best thing to have floating around in the fridge in the summer, meals come together in minutes and packed lunches are ready to go for the week. Orzo is my go-to shape for pasta salad, it retains its bite and shape even after being coated in a creamy dressing for up to 4 days. I prefer the taste of jarred and marinated roasted red peppers for this recipe, they add a sweet and tangy kick and come packed in brine that serves as an ingredient for the dressing. If you can find good quality jarred and roasted zucchini or eggplant slices use them as well. I sometimes find that these pantry staples can have a greyish taste so make sure they’re a brand worth using in place of the freshly roasted version. The corn, prepared however you like, is a pleasing addition to the orzo and adds a whole other layer of bright sweetness to the finished result. Add crumbled chèvre or Macedonian feta for some extra creaminess or a can of drained chickpeas for  additional heft.

orzo pasta salad with roasted eggplant, zucchini, and red peppers:

1 package of orzo

1 eggplant, cut into small cubes

1 zucchini, cut into small cubes

1 jar of roasted red peppers + 1/4 cup of brine

About 3 ears worth of corn, roasted/grilled/or boiled and cooled

1 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced

1/4 cup of green olives, pitted and cut into very small pieces

1 bunch of fresh basil, cut in a chiffonade

1 small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the orzo in lightly salted water according to package instructions. Rinse with cold water until the orzo is room temperature. Transfer to a large salad bowl and drizzle with olive oil and stir to prevent the pasta from sticking together.
  2.  Arrange the cut up eggplant and zucchini on a large parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Coat with olive oil using your hands to ensure even coverage. Bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from oven and set aside.
  3. Dice the marinated roasted red peppers and add to the orzo. Stir in the corn, eggplant, zucchini, scallions, green olives, fresh basil, and parsley. Toss the mixture with the dressing, stirring thoroughly so that the pasta and vegetables are completely coated. Add plenty of freshly cracked pepper and salt to taste before allowing to sit 15 minutes before serving.

for the creamy dressing:

1/4 cup of roasted red pepper brine

Juice of 1 lemon

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp. mayonnaise

1/4  cup olive oil

1 garlic clove, finely minced

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a jar and shake until completely emulsified (or whisk in a bowl until you get the same result).

This is music that best scores my solo endeavours, making dinner late at night on my own while I’m in my nightgown, walking around in the rain with headphones on, or reading library books on the couch. Endearing, sweetly nostalgic songs that buffer the slightly overwhelming feeling of being surrounded by too much empty space.

Plums – Parking Lots

2 Comments Add yours

  1. I love orzo and this salad sounds like a delicious way to enjoy it.

    1. I don’t know why I like orzo so much, I think it’s the chewiness and the tiny shape. I’ll be making more orzo salad this week!

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