Most of the time simple is better. Whenever I travel one of the things that always hits me, regardless of where in the world I am, is how simple food is often the most delicious. This roasted squash orzo salad relies on that principle. It might seem like a lot of ingredients, but the flavors that shine through are fresh parsley, fresh cracked pepper, and delicious roasted squash.
This recipe is a variation on a sidedish I make all the time using pearled couscous. It’s similar to a tabouli salad, but this recipe has some more depth and is more filling thanks to the squash. You could easily pair this salad with some basic grilled chicken and have a super solid meal. I like to serve it with baked fallafel, fresh tzatziki, and roasted carrots with sumac and honey.
Roasted squash orzo salad would be a great addition to a bbq if you’re tasked with bringing along a side dish. There’s a bonus in this recipe too…the roasted squash is an amazing recipe on it’s own. Super simple, but by peeling and roasting the squash on both sides we can develop a whole bunch of flavor.
Roasting the Squash
This first step of this recipe is to get the squash going. I love just splitting Acorn Squash in half, tossing in some butter, a little cinnamon, some nutmeg and roasting them on high until super tender. But for this recipe we’re going to peel and slice the squash ahead of time. Did you know that Acorn Squash while considerd a winter squash by most people, are actually in the same family as zuchini?
By roasting the squash in individual pieces we can build up mor flavor. All of that delicious browning will add depth to a salad that is super fresh, contrasting the parsley and cucumber, and enhancing the natural acidity of the tomato and lemon juice. The addition of the squash also gives this recipe more nutritional value and makes is way more satiating than just the simple orzo salad on it’s own.
Making the Salad
Yea yea yea, is it a salad or is it a pasta dish? All I know is that if someone showed up at a BBQ with this in their hands it would go with the rest of the salads, an no where near the carbs. Also, there’s not one, but TWO green things in here so it must be a salad.
The key to this orzo salad is the fresh parsley. For some reason we tend to shy away from flavorful greens in our salads. Arugala, endive, raddichio are all criminally underepresented on the American table. Which brings me to my rant of the day. USE MORE FRESH HERBS. Seriously! Before there were widespread pre-prepared foods with seasonings on them already and herbs came in glass jars or in tubes, cooks who were looking for flavor went out to the garden and got that flavor from herbs. Think about the last cooking show you watched, it most likely had Giada or Mario chopping up a big ole hunk of parsley or basil to add into their dish. Fresh herbs are the cornerstone of soooo many amazing dishes, and this is one of them.
So, anyway, this salad is super simple, but super flavorful, because of the fresh parsley. Crunchy cucumber, seeded tomatoes, and a bunch of fresh cracked black pepper. The most dificult part of this recipe is probably preparing the tomatoes. This is one of those knife skills that is super simple, but might seem a little tough in the beginning. First, you cut the top off the tomato, then cut them into quarters. Place the tomato quarter skin side down, then carefully slide the blade between the flesh and the seeds essentially scooping out the seeds and goop. Boom, easy, repeat that a couple of times and you’re good to go. As usual a sharp knife helps a lot. This step is important for the overall texture of the salad, as well as helping keep any leftovers not soggy.
The final result is a salad that is fresh and peppery. Just tangy enough to bounce around your palete and fresh tasting enough to feel good about (and not like you’re eating a bowl of pasta). It’s a more interesting way to bring carbs onto the plate than potatoes or rice.
Roasted Squash Orzo Salad
- Sheet Pan
- Pot for boiling water
- Bowl for prep and finished salad
- Knife and cutting board
- 1 Acorn Squash
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/2 tsp Fresh Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
- 1 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil
- 2/3 Cucumber Seeded
- 4 Vine Tomatoes
- 1/2 cup Fresh Parsley
- 1/2 lb. Orzo half a box
- 2 tbsp Olive Oil Extra Virgin
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp Fresh Black Pepper
- 1 squeeze Fresh Lemon Juice
- Pre-heat oven to 415 degrees.
- Start with preparing the squash for the oven. This is easiest with a cleaver, but any sharp knife will do. First slice off the very bottom of the squash so that you have a flat surface to work with. Then carefully using the knife start at the top of the squash and cut down along the skin of the squash. It's easiest to do this in small ribbons and with a sharp knife.
- Cut the peeled squash in half and scoop out the seeds and guts. Slice the squash halves into 3/4" slices.
- Place the squash pieces into a bowl (this will make even distribution of the spices soooo much easier). Add in the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, dried oregano, and olive oil. Toss the squash pieces with the seasoning until all of the pieces are evenly coated.
- Layout the squash onto a baking sheet and place into the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes (or until nicely browned on the first side). After 20 minutes we'll flip the squash onto the opposite side and roast for another 10 minutes. While the squash is in the oven this is a great time to prep the rest of the ingredients in the salad.
- While the squash is roasting prepare the cucumber, tomato, and parsley, and orzo.
- Set up a pot and get some water boiling for the orzo. Chop up the veggies while this is getting up to temp.
- Use 2/3 of a cucumber. Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. After the seeds and insides are scooped out, cut each cucumber half into 4 pieces lengthwise and dice into small pieces. Add this to your bowl.
- Cut tomatoes into quarters. Then carefully cut out the seeds and core from each quarter of the tomato and throw out the seeds and core. You got this! After cutting out the tomato gunk, slice the tomatoes into strips and dice the flesh.
- Finely chop up the fresh parsley and add this to your bowl.
- Once the water is boiling add in your orzo and follow the directions on the box for 'al-dente' pasta. As soon as the pasta is done strain it and run cold water over it while it's in the strainer to cool it down quickly. When the Orzo is cool add it into the bowl with the veggies.
- When the squash is done in the oven take it off of the baking sheet and place it on your cutting board, let it cool down for 10 minutes before cutting into inch size pieces.
- Add the squash into the orzo, cucumber, tomato, parsley bowl and mix it all up.
- To finish up add in the olive oil, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Thoroughly mix everything together and give it a taste for more salt, pepper, or lemon juice depending on your taste! Enjoy!