Orzo with Mixed Vegetables

Past two years at the IPC Missions Conference Dinners, I have served rice pilaf with Tim's world-famous grilled chicken. You would think an Asian cook wouldn't have any trouble cooking rice, but no. Cooking rice pilaf for my family of six could not be applied to cooking rice pilaf for 200.

To avoid another too dry or too gummy rice pilaf with no character, I have opted to make Orzo salad, rice shaped pasta. It was a much better option! I won't give up on rice pilaf for 200 people, yet. Will let you know when I get it right.

Vibrant colors of tri-colored pepppers and fresh Italian Parsley livens up this salad.

12 ounces orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
2 tablespoons to coat pasta
1 1/2 cups crumbled seasoned feta cheese (such as basil and tomato; about 6 ounces, or 4 cheese blend (Parmesan, Asiago, etc)
1 cup chopped red bell pepper, sauteed and cooled
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper, sauteed and cooled
3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1/2 cup of chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons drained capers
1 cup of jarred grilled artichoke hearts
Optional: grilled veggies of your choice

1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 cloves of garlic
1 whole shallot
3 sun dried tomato pieces (oil packed)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and Pepper to taste

3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (optional)

Cook orzo in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but not too soft. Drain. Rinse with cold water; drain well. Transfer to large bowl. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil.

In a blender put lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, shallot, sun dried tomato pieces, oregano, mustard and cumin. Blend for about 30 seconds, then with machine running, slowly pour 1/2 cup of oil until well emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.

Add dressing to orzo, vegetables, and cheese and toss to blend.

Note: Both dressing and pasta can be prepped two days in an advance.

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