Sunday, July 6, 2014

Orzo: The New Rice

Lately, I’ve seen orzo showing up on the table of folks who didn’t even know it existed a few years ago. Louisianans, and in particular Cajun Creole, home cooks are a stubborn bunch who hold to tradition more so than most cultures. But, this ingredient has made the grade for several easily explained reasons.

First, it’s easy to cook. Orzo cooks quickly (less than 10 minutes) in salted boiling water. And it’s versatile. It’s great in soups, or in a salad as I’ve done.

I’ve even heard it is a great substitute for Arborio in a risotto. And that leads me to the final, and most important, reason Louisiana, especially in the south, has embraced orzo; it’s a lot like rice.

Orzo mimics the shape and texture of rice, but has a taste profile that is an interesting twist to the tried and true.
"Orzo" is Italian for the word "barley," but truth be told, it is not a grain at all. It is pasta and might explain its ability to pick up flavors and hold on to other ingredients so well. In fact, in my recipe today I am dressing this orzo salad with a combination of quality extra virgin olive oil (the good stuff) along with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

The orzo picks up that combination of flavors with astonishing results. Adding fresh kale and chicken  makes this orzo dish a light and healthy lunch.

For all my traditional long-grain white rice fans out there, not to worry. I can assure you orzo pasta is not going to show up covered in gravy anytime soon. Rice is the king of all crops, and will reign supreme for generations to come.
But give this little foreign newcomer a try and you might be surprised. It just may find a place on your table.
                        Orzo, Chicken and Kale Salad

Prep / Cook time:  1 hour  10 minutes       Makes 4 servings

Tip: This salad is versatile and the ingredients easily altered. Adding seared tuna , grilled salmon or large shrimp would turn this into a stellar center-of-the-plate dinner entree.

                     **Extra virgin olive oil**
1                   dozen fresh mushrooms
                    **Kosher salt**
½                 cup table salt
1                  bunch green asparagus spears
2                  pounds of diced  cooked  chicken diced
1                  12-ounces package orzo pasta
2                  cups kale, chopped
1                  cup spinach leaves
1                  cup parsley, chopped
1                  cup red cherry tomatoes, halved
1                  cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
1                  cup slivered almonds
2                  fresh lemons
                   **Freshly ground black pepper**

1 .        In a large skillet on medium-high heat, add a light coating of olive oil. Clean the mushrooms with a brush and slice thinly. Add the mushrooms to the skillet and sauté until just browned. Sprinkle lightly with salt and move to a platter. Cover and refrigerate.
2 .       In a large pot filled halfway with water on high heat add the salt. Bring to a boil and add the asparagus. Cook until just blanched, about 4 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the asparagus and plunge immediately into a bath of ice water. Once cooled, snap off the woody ends and cut the remaining spears into bite-sized pieces. Cover and refrigerate.
3.       In the same pot of salted water, bring to a boil and add the diced  chicken. Turn the fire off and cook until the chicken until no longer pink and the all the  chicken is done, about 25 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the chicken and drain on paper towel. Let cool.
4 .      In the same pot of salted water, add the package of orzo. Bring to a boil and cook to package directions. Once cooked, pour the orzo into a colander and let drain. Add the orzo to a large mixing bowl and coat lightly with olive oil. Cover the bowl and refrigerate.
5 .      For assembly, remove the mixing bowl of orzo and add the asparagus. Add the kale, spinach, parsley, tomatoes and almonds. Take 1 lemon and grate the zest into the salad mixture. Squeeze the lemon juice into the salad being careful to remove any seeds.
6 .       With the other lemon, slice and remove each end. With a sharp knife, very thinly slice the lemon into rounds. Add the lemon rounds to the salad. Season the salad mixture with salt and pepper to taste. Toss to incorporate all ingredients, cover and refrigerate.
7 .       For serving, toss the salad once again and portion the mixture onto salad plates. Add the chicken to each plate. Make sure to include all of the key ingredients on each serving.


  1. Dear Nee, Oh I am so glad that you posted some info on Orzo! It is my favorite pasta to make with soups of any kind. I love the texture and I can see how it mimics rice. Your recipe, Orzo, Chicken and Kale Salad is a wonderful idea and looks delicious on your plate. Love all the ingredients and especially love the almonds, that really gives it another layer of texture. Wonderful! Next family gathering I will make this recipe, Thank you for sharing this dish with us...Have a blessed day! Dottie :)

    1. Dear Dottie , my kids love Orzo , I get a lot of my ideas from them , the girls made lunch for them (I have 4 ... 5 thru 12) . They made a dish called 'Guess What' ;-D Orzo , eggs , pickles and mayo and Ritz crackers .
      All the ingredients are healthy and in season and this salad can be a complete meal , not heavy . I do so think your family will like this dish and know what a wonderful cook you are . Thank you for stopping by and blessing to you .... Nee :)

  2. Nee, I haven't made any dish with orzo for the longest time. Your delicious, healthy, and colorful salad is such an inspiration, I must make it real soon. It's a full meal, as far as I'm concerned. You got all the wonderful healthy greens combined, the mushroom, tomatoes, and the addition of the diced chicken...yumm! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Elisabeth ...time to make this dish and use whatever meats you have in the refrigerator . When in a hurry and needs to save time , I buy a rotisserie chicken from the market . I am very fortunate , my kids love vegetables . This salad goes good with Italian garlic bread . Thank you for stopping by . :)

  3. I have to admit that I have never tried orzo. I have seen so many nice recipes including yours, but still haven't got it :) This salad must have been delicious and filling

    1. Hi Medeja ,
      You will fall in love with Orzo .... fast and easy ... give it a try . Thanks for stopping by :)

  4. Hi Nee!
    Orzo is a favorite around here too. Marion loves it in Chicken Soup! When we were kids, we use to have a snack of orzo and butter. I still sometimes make some up for a snack. Only now, I add lots and lots of pepper, lol...

    Your salad looks delicious! I love that it is so flexible and of course that it has orzo in it. Thanks so much for sharing, Nee...

  5. Hi Louise ,
    Orzo is the new kid on the block here and gaining on rice fast ... Awesome Foursome love adding butter and lots of pepper .

    Thanks so much for stopping by :)

  6. Hi Nee,

    I have heard of this interesting ingredient from my health conscious friend but didn't get a chance to try cooking with it because my family still prefer white rice... hmmm...

    Your salad looks fantastic! You must be eating this a lot with lots of summer BBQing :D


    1. Hi Zoe ,
      Orzo is a fanatic pasta , it's small like rice and it packs a wallop of a good taste . Try some sometime and the family will like it , it mimics rice so well . You are so right , we eats a lot of salads during the summer . Tanks so much for stopping by :)

  7. Hi Nee, love orzo pasta, love the combination of veggies you used in this dish, sounds perfect!

  8. Hi Cheri , It's quite tasty , thanks for the visit and now I can find you :)

  9. hi nee, i hv never tried orzo before, it's not a common ingredient that we can find at the supermarkets here but i'm sure i hv seen this before somewhere. Your orzo chicken kale salad looks wonderful and i like all the ingredients that you put in there too !

  10. Hi Lena , some of my friends in other countries use rice instead of Orzo , thanks so much for stopping by :)

  11. I use orzo a lot when I need a quick last minute starch to add to a dish (like soup). Never used it in a salad, but after reading your recipe, I will. ;-) Thanks for this.

    1. Hi John , the little pasta is catching on , I agree it will never replace rice , who wants orzo and gravy , but you never know . Thanks for stopping by :)

  12. Lovely salad. Love the orzo. I can't wait to make this delicious salad.

    1. Hi Geraldine , I am sure you will enjoy this dish . Glad to meet you Geraldine , I will hop over to your kitchen and see what's cooking . Thanks for stopping by :)

  13. We haven't had orzo in a long while...your salad has turned out so good with chopped kale (another favourite produce) !

  14. Hi Angie , nice meeting you and thanks for your visit . Love eating light in the hot weather . Thanks for stopping by :)


Hi friends, thank you for stopping by and for taking the time to say hello. The welcome mat is always out and the coffee is always hot .I really appreciate your sweet gesture!