Summer Orzo Salad with Grilled Sweet Corn and Brussels Sprouts

Whew! Grad school can take a lot of out a girl! I am happy to report that I have completed my last final, submitted my last paper, and given my last presentation. And this means...on with the making from scratch! 

With a glass of homemade white peach wine in hand, I fired up the charcoal grill in our urban oasis of a backyard. I can hear the unmistakable rhythms of Cumbia music softly murmuring from one of my neighbor's open windows. As I hear little mews coming from my own window above my head, I look up and see my sweet kitten, Lyla, inquisitively watching me as I prepare the grill. Smoldering charcoal is one of my most favorite smells - it smells like summer.

This little gem of a salad is wonderful for this time of year. The flavors are bright, but the balsamic reduction adds a little gusto for when the evening chill kicks in. Personally, I prefer this salad served cold. Also, this dish gets better after a day, so if you are planning on serving it for company, I recommend making it a day ahead of time. If you do not have a grill, you can use your broiler in the oven.

What You'll Need:
  • 15 to 20 large brussels sprouts
  • 1 ear of sweet corn
  • 1/4 purple onion, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup orzo
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons fresh curly parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh greens
  • parmesan cheese (optional)

  1. Prepare your grill. Shuck the corn and cut each sprout in half lengthwise. Place the corn and sprouts over medium high heat and cook until corn is done and sprouts are softened (about 5 minutes for the corn and 15 for the sprouts). Be sure to turn the corn every couple of minutes to ensure even cooking. Remove the corn and sprouts from the grill and let cool. Once the corn has cooled, using a serrated knife, cut the corn from the cob. It's okay if kernels stick together - it adds to the charm of the presentation! Combine the corn, sprouts, and thinly sliced onion in a large bowl. 
  2. Next, boil 5 cups of water. When the water is at a rolling boil, add the orzo. Cook for about 8 minutes until al dente. When the orzo is done, drain thoroughly and pour on top of the vegetables. Cover the bowl with a lid. The heat from the orzo will slightly wilt the raw onion and bring out it's sweetness while still maintaining the lovely crispness of texture. 
  3. While the pasta is cooking, make the balsamic reduction. In a small sauce pot, cook the vinegar for 5 minutes over medium high heat. After 5 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. The reduction will thicken as it cools, so do not be alarmed if it does not look thick enough after the 5 minutes. Also, this is part of the dressing for the salad, so we do not want a super thick reduction anyway. 
  4. Once the orzo is added to the vegetables, add the oil, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper. Stir thoroughly to make sure everything is well incorporated. Serve on top of a bed of fresh greens and drizzle the reduction over the salad. Garnish with parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.

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