Jenny is in perpetual search for easy, weeknight recipes to attempt to feed her family. When they balk, she just eats more.
I am one of those weird people who actually orders salads in restaurants. To others this probably sounds nuts, but washing and drying lettuces and finely chopping up veggies is my equivalent of measuring and spooning for those who hate to bake.
Then, there is the end product problem. You wash, you chop, you arrange, and you dress, and what are you left with really? A side dish. Jenny’s cost benefit analysis concludes: nope.
But I’ve made an exception with this lovely orzo salad, which mixes minimal effort with enough substance to provide an entire weeknight meal for a family of four, or dinner for you and yours with lunch leftovers.
You will see the bulk of this baby comes from orzo, the world’s most versatile pasta, and butternut squash, which I highly recommend buying already cubed if you really wanted to keep your effort to a minimum. (The other options are to cube in the morning before work, or, my personal favorite, to fob this task off on someone else.)
From there you are popping your veggies in the oven while you wash up some arugula and crumble some cheese, and at least in my case, go pick the last of your sage from the garden, which no doubt has stubbornly resisted the entreaties of fall, which has no doubt slapped your wimpy basil and tarragon into seasonal submission. Start your orzo at some point, too. My squash took close to 40 minutes to cook; cut it smaller if you want to lessen cook time.
Don’t hate me Meatless Monday-ers, but I also tucked some chicken rubbed with salt, pepper, and garlic powder into the oven and chopped it up as an addition to this salad, just to give it the full-meal finish. No pepitas? No problem.
The best part of this whole deal, in my view, is the blue cheese, which replaces the glop of dressing with a burst of fat and tang, and pairs beautifully with the squash. Did I use about twice what was called for? In fact I did. I said I love salad; I didn’t say I loved virtue.
Favorite Fall Orzo Salad by lorigoldsby
Serves 6 to 8
2 pounds butternut squash, cut into bite-sized cubes
1/4 pound orzo
2 ounces Maytag blue cheese
1/4 cup oil (scant)
1 bunch fresh sage leaves
Fresh cracked pepper and coarse kosher, sea, or alder salt
1 bunch watercress, arugula, or any microgreen
1 ounce roasted pepitas
Photo by James Ransom