When Life Gives You Tomatoes

When Life Gives You Tomatoes
In this summer salad, the emphasis is on the vegetables rather than a carb-laden bowl of pasta interspersed with a few green leaves. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)
8/14/2023
Updated:
8/14/2023
0:00

Too many tomatoes are never a problem. Perhaps the only challenge is maintaining self-control when passing the colorful piles of peak-season tomatoes at the market. Admittedly, they are hard to resist. Cherries, heirlooms, and Early Girls in vibrant shades of the sun and summer challenge restraint.

It’s easy to be greedy and fill the basket with an array of these beauties without a plan for how to use them. While I’m not here to judge or to advise you on any indulgence issues, I do have a recipe to help you use your surplus.

Petite orzo pasta allows the tomatoes and greens to shine as they should. (vvoe/Shutterstock)
Petite orzo pasta allows the tomatoes and greens to shine as they should. (vvoe/Shutterstock)

This recipe is a wonderful summer salad with ingredients that scream “garden-fresh.” You might be tempted to call it a pasta salad, but as you can see, the emphasis is on the vegetables rather than a carb-laden bowl of pasta interspersed with a few green leaves. Dainty orzo steps into the pasta role. Its petite rice shape won’t overwhelm the bowl, allowing the tomatoes and greens to shine as they should. Fresh, creamy mozzarella and zippy Parmigiano–Reggiano round out the flavors, with a balsamic drizzle that binds the salad with a sweet and puckery kick.

Serve the salad slightly warm or at room temperature. You can cook the orzo in advance and refrigerate until assembling the salad.

In this summer salad, the emphasis is on the vegetables rather than a carb-laden bowl of pasta interspersed with a few green leaves. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)
In this summer salad, the emphasis is on the vegetables rather than a carb-laden bowl of pasta interspersed with a few green leaves. (Lynda Balslev for Tastefood)

Tomato, Arugula, and Orzo Salad

Active Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 20 minutes, plus cooling time for the orzo

Serves 4

For the Dressing
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the Salad
  • 1 1/3 cups orzo
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 ounces baby arugula, about 4 packed cups
  • 6 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut or torn into bite-size pieces
  • 8 to 10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Whisk the vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil and whisk to emulsify.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 7 minutes. Drain. Transfer the orzo to a large, shallow serving bowl and stir in the oil and salt. Cool to lukewarm or room temperature. (Alternatively, refrigerate the pasta until use. Let stand at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes before assembling the salad.)

Spread the arugula over the pasta, then add the mozzarella, tomatoes, olives, and basil. Drizzle half of the dressing over the salad and gently mix to combine. Garnish with additional basil, the Parmigiano–Reggiano, and a generous grind of black pepper. Drizzle with additional dressing to taste. Serve immediately.

Lynda Balslev is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and recipe developer based in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she lives with her Danish husband, two children, a cat, and a dog. Balslev studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark. Copyright 2021 Lynda Balslev. Distributed by Andrews McMeel Syndication.