Make Ahead

Orzo Salad with Scallions, Hazelnuts, and Golden Raisins

April 16, 2014
6 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Makes 1 quart
Author Notes

This salad is my version of an orzo side dish I recently saw (and bought and devoured) at Brooklyn Larder. It marries famously with nearly any preparation of chicken, or with grilled lamb, sausages, or steak. I have taken it to the office for lunch and eaten it straight from the container. It is a make-ahead affair, perfect for travel, potlucks, and picnics. The dressing may be mixed, the raisins plumped, and the hazelnuts toasted the night before. In fact, the whole salad can be made several hours, or even a day or two, before serving. —Cristina Sciarra

Test Kitchen Notes

This dish offers delicious medley of different flavors -- sweet, sour, salty, and smoky -- in the form of orzo pasta salad. It is mixed with a sesame and olive oil vinaigrette (6 tablespoons for me), scallions, chives, toasted hazelnuts, and golden raisins plumped with red wine vinegar, then topped with crumbled goat cheese -- or feta cheese if you prefer. I love that you can prepare it in advance and eat the salad cold or at room temperature. It works as well at home, as it does for work, a potluck, or a picnic. —Regine

What You'll Need
  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for coating the orzo
  • 6 scallions
  • Small handful of chives
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 ounces fresh goat cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F. Scatter the hazelnuts across a baking sheet, then put in the oven for 10 minutes. Take them out and allow them to cool, then remove the skins. Leave the nuts whole, or roughly chop them -- however you prefer. Set aside.
  2. Bring the red wine vinegar and 1/2 cup of water to a healthy simmer. Add the raisins and turn down the heat to low. Cover, then cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the raisins to sit in the vinegar solution for an additional 20 minutes. Drain the raisins and set them aside.
  3. Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, then add enough kosher salt to make the water taste like the sea. Add the orzo to the pot and cook until al dente (for me, this was consistently 2 minutes less than the bag recommended). Drain the orzo, transfer to a bowl, and stir in a bit of olive oil -- just enough so that the pasta doesn't stick. Allow the orzo to cool for 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. Make the dressing: Add the lime juice, rice wine vinegar, and champagne vinegar to a small bowl. Whisk in a little pinch of kosher salt. Add the sesame oil and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Whisk the dressing to emulsify the oil, then set aside.
  5. Clean and thinly slice the whites and light greens of the scallions. Mince the chives.
  6. Stir the red pepper flakes into the orzo. Add the hazelnuts, raisins, scallions, and chives. Fold in the dressing. Stir in the sea salt. Using a fork, break up the goat cheese, then crumble it into the bowl and lightly fold to combine. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Author's Note: If you are eating the salad fresh, I think 1/2 cup of dressing is sufficient. I usually save the remaining 1/4 cup for just before serving, especially if I make the salad ahead of time. But add the dressing bit by bit, then stop when it tastes right to you.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Gardenia Marte
    Gardenia Marte
  • Mike Thierfelder
    Mike Thierfelder
  • Ashley Marie
    Ashley Marie
  • Annie stader
    Annie stader
  • Cristina Sciarra
    Cristina Sciarra
Cristina is a writer, cook, and day job real estate developer. She studied literature, holds an MFA in Fiction Writing, and completed the Basic Cuisine course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She lives in Jersey City with her husband--a Frenchman she met in Spain--and their sweet black cat, Minou. Follow her writings, recipes, publications and photography at

18 Reviews

Gardenia M. January 27, 2021
Absolutely delicious! Thank you’
Mike T. September 11, 2020
Kind of so so, not sure why people love this so much. Pretty sour, unbalanced, reminds me of eating a briney green olive. Followed directions to a tee.
Cristina S. September 11, 2020
Hi Mike, I’m sorry my recipe disappointed you!
Mike T. September 11, 2020
Kind of so so, not sure why people love this so much. Pretty sour, unbalanced, reminds me of eating a briney green olive. Followed directions to a tee.
Barbara M. May 27, 2019
I added snips of fresh rosemary and oregano, don't like goat cheese and didn't have any feta so used some mozzarella pearls.
June September 23, 2017
Good salad. I didn't exactly follow the methods, but used the ingredients and methods as inspiration. Used golden raisins plain, as I wanted them to remain sweet. Used bulgur and quinoa in place of orzo to up the nutrition value. Switched amounts of sesame oil and olive oil...just cuz sesame oil is a pronounced flavor and I had not seen recipes with that quantity before. (Next time I think I will omit the sesame oil.) Added a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas. Sprinkled with pecans and chopped cucumbers at serving.
Tashamcrae May 5, 2020
So what you are saying is you didn’t use the recipe ? But what you did was good ?
Ashley M. May 23, 2016
Fantastic! Subbed the golden raisins for currants and the chives for chive blossoms. Will be making this recipe all summer :)
Cristina S. May 23, 2016
I bet it looked lovely with chive blossoms! I'll try that myself if I can get my hands on some at the market :)
Marty H. July 20, 2015
Oh, man, this is amazing. Great combination of flavors! I did add a few chopped cukes (garden overabundance!) and will definitely make this again! Thank you!
Lauren Z. June 21, 2014
This salad is amazing. I sub-ed queso fresco for the goat cheese, white wine vinegar for the champagne vinegar and added more olive oil than the 2 tbsp. Thanks for the recipe.
Cristina S. June 21, 2014
Thank you! So glad you enjoyed it.
cindy June 16, 2014
This salad is delicious. I didn't use all of the dressing but kept it in case the salad gets a little dry.
K C. May 20, 2014
Is the sesame oil used the toasted sesame oil or regular sesame oil?
Cristina S. May 20, 2014
I use toasted sesame oil.
Nancy M. May 10, 2014
I'm eating this right now. Delicious!
Annie S. May 8, 2014
I really dislike hazelnuts (I know ..) so I usually substitute chickpeas or chestnuts. The chickpeas worked great! Thanks for the recipe!
Cristina S. May 8, 2014
I am all for substitutions! Chickpeas sound great.