Orzo Chicken Salad

adapted from My Carolina Kitchen


Yield:  8-10 servings as a main course


16 ounces orzo pasta

Kosher salt, to taste

1 cup frozen Petite Peas

1 red onion, cut into slices 1/2-inch thick

1 each red, orange and yellow bell pepper

1 cup of fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade, or minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, or a combination of both

1/2 pint orange grape tomatoes, cut in half, or 12 small heirlooms, cored and quartered, or whatever tomatoes are available

1 jar artichoke hearts, drained, cut in half 

10-12 kalamata olives, cut in half, lengthwise

2 cups chicken breast pieces cut bite-size


Vinaigrette (recipe follows)


Fill a large pot three-fourths full water.  Salt and bring to a boil over high heat.  While the water is boiling, prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl.  Add the orzo to the boiling water, stirring to prevent sticking.  Return the water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente, about 10-12 minutes. During the last minute of cooking, add the peas. Drain in a large strainer or colander.  Place the strainer with the orzo and peas into the water bath to cool, or place the pasta and peas directly in the water bath.  Drain again.  Transfer the orzo and peas to a large bowl.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and stir to coat.  Cover and refrigerate until cool.


Make the vinaigrette, recipe below.  Whisk the vinegar and mustard in a non-aluminum bowl.  Add the grapeseed oil and whisk until mixed.  Add the olive oil, whisking until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.


Prepare the grill by brushing both the grill and the vegetables with olive oil.  (The vegetables may be grilled directly on the grate or a vegetable-grilling basket may be used.)  Arrange the onions in the basket or on the grate, directly over high heat.  Grill, turning once, until the onions are nicely charred on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate.


Grill the bell peppers directly over high heat, turning occasionally, until nicely charred on all sides. Transfer to a bowl, cover and let steam for 10 minutes.  When the peppers are cool enough to handle, using your fingers or a paring knife, peel the skin from the peppers and discard.  Core, seed and dice the peppers.


Remove the orzo and peas from the refrigerator.  Add the vinaigrette, peppers, onions, chicken, artichokes, olives, basil or parsley to the bowl and toss to coat.  Add the tomatoes, then taste and adjust the seasoning by adding more salt and/or pepper.


The salad can be served cold or at room temperature.


Vinaigrette


1/8 to 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil  (I only used 1/8 cup of the olive oil.)

1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other neutral tasting oil

4 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more if needed

1 Tablespoon good Dijon mustard

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


We loved the flavor of the grilled onion and pepper!  To us that really made this salad special!!