The grilling season goes much easier if you have a good selection of simple salads to toss together while the meat cooks on the barbecue. Recently, I added a black bean and orzo combination to my warm-weather repertoire.
I cook the grain-shaped pasta and combine it with canned black beans, diced tomatoes and chopped red onions. The ingredients are tossed in a mustard-garlic vinaigrette with basil and parsley. It can be prepared several hours ahead and travels well, making it a good choice for a picnic.
Grilled lemon-marinated chicken, served warm or at room temperature, and blanched green beans tossed with fresh herbs would go well with this salad. For dessert, serve fresh strawberries and blueberries with pound cake.
BLACK BEAN, ORZO AND TOMATO SALAD (30 MINUTES OR LESS)
1 cup orzo or other rice-shaped pasta
2 (19-ounce) cans black beans, drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 1/2 cups seeded, 1/4-inch-diced tomatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped sweet red onions
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more if needed
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, preferably flat leaf
3 tablespoons chopped basil, plus sprigs for garnish
Bring 2 quarts water to boil and add orzo and 1 teaspoon salt. Simmer until orzo is just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well and pat dry.
Place orzo in large nonreactive mixing bowl. Add beans, tomatoes and onions and mix well.
Whisk together mustard, vinegar, garlic, red pepper flakes and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gradually whisk in olive oil.
Pour dressing over salad and toss to mix. Taste and add more salt and red pepper flakes if desired. (Note: Salad can be made to this point 3 to 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before serving.)
When ready to serve, add chopped parsley and basil and mix well. Mound salad on serving platter or in large, shallow bowl. Arrange bouquet of fresh basil sprigs in center as garnish.
6 servings. Each serving:
311 calories; 1,189 mg sodium; 25 mg cholesterol; 14 grams fat; 42 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams protein; 0.43 gram fiber.