It took a bit of time to think of an appropriate title for this dish because it is complex in flavor, yet so easy to make. The key flavor is centered around summer vegetables that please so many like me, who suffer through snowy and long winters.
My family requests this dish for summer functions because it can be served warm or cold. What distinguishes this dish from your typical orzo pilaf or salad, is toasting the orzo. Such an approach not only brings a contrast of color, but enhances the flavor of the pasta.
As for the vegetables, the simpler the better. Once again, you do not have to do much to fresh ingredients. The dressing focuses on lemon, which complements the richness of the pasta and roasted vegetables.
Toasted Orzo with Roasted Garden Vegetables
For the orzo:
1 16 oz. box orzo
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
5-6 cups water
3-4 zucchini, sliced thin
2 medium sized Italian eggplant, quartered then sliced
2-3 yellow summer squash, sliced thin
3 Roma tomatoes, sliced
2 tablespoon kosher salt, divided
1 tablespoon black pepper
For the dressing:
2 shallots, minced
juice of one lemon
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Kefalotyri or Roman cheese, grated
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley, chopped
Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the vegetables with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper. Place seasoned vegetables on a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.
While vegetables are roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottom 6 qt. pot. Over medium heat toast half the box of orzo, stirring frequently for about 5-10 minutes until golden brown. Be careful not to burn. Remove pot from the heat. Allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Add the remaining untoasted orzo and water. Bring to boil. Season with 1 tablespoon salt. Cook for 10 minutes until water is absorbed and orzo just tender.
Combine the orzo and roasted vegetables. Mix the shallots, lemon juice, olive oil, cheese and parsley. Toss the orzo mixture with the dressing. Serve warm at room temperature or cold.