Asparagus. Artichokes. Tuna….Vodka?
What do these ingredients all have in common? Not much, but that’s the point.
They are the four ingredients chosen at random for this month’s Paper Chef Challenge by last month’s winner, Allison of Local Lemons. I almost didn’t participate because I really don’t like vodka. My passionate dislike goes back to an “incident” involving one too many Screwdrivers (the drink, not the tool, though come to think of it, a certain boy was being a tool which is what led to the the Screwdrivers…but I digress) in my freshman year of college. Let’s just say it’s been over 20 years and I still can’t touch the stuff.
So it was with some difficulty I came up with a recipe which included the dreaded spirit. I thought about doing a pasta with vodka sauce, but really, I wanted to be able to eat what I made and I don’t even like it in my pasta. I thought about doing something with a seared rare tuna, as seafood was my specialty in my former life, but again, I just couldn’t make it work with the vodka. Ultimately, I ended up with this light summer salad hoping the vodka would add that je ne sais quoi to the vinaigrette.
Guess what? I actually enjoyed it. That doesn’t mean I’ll be drinking a Screwdriver any time soon. Though I’m still with a certain boy 23 years later, I’d rather drink tequila.
Let me know if you’ve ever been challenged to cook with an ingredient you don’t like. How did it turn out?
***Note, this recipe ended up winning the Paper Chef competition (yay!). You can see Allison’s comments here: http://www.locallemons.com/local_lemons/2009/06/paperchef-41-we-have-a-winner.html
Orzo Salad with Asparagus, Artichokes, Tuna, & Lemon Vodka Vinaigrette
Text Only Printable Recipe
1 lb dry Orzo pasta
1 Tbsp olive oil
8 oz cooked asparagus, blanched and shocked
12 oz artichoke hearts, quartered
3 oz kalamata olives, sliced
8 oz diced tomatoes
4 oz diced yellow pepper
2 cans (6 oz each) solid white albacore tuna
2 Tbsp fresh basil
6-8 oz Lemon Vodka Vinaigrette (recipe below)
Cook the orzo in a large pot of salted boiling water until done, about 12 min. Drain, run cold water over to stop the cooking, and put it in a large mixing bowl. Mix in 1 Tbsp olive oil to keep the orzo from sticking together.
Cook the asparagus until just tender in boiling water (for pencil thin asparagus this can be less than a minute), remove and quickly drop in a bath of ice water to “shock” the asparagus. This stops the cooking and sets the color.
Slice and dice the artichoke hearts, olives, tomatoes and peppers.
Mix the vegetables into the orzo.
Add in the drained tuna and fresh basil.
Add in the dressing to taste. I recommend you start with half the dressing and then add more as needed. If the salad is going to sit, it will absorb the dressing and you may need to add more later.
Makes about 10 cups of salad, enough for a picnic, pot luck, or warm summer night’s meal.
Lemon Vodka Vinaigrette
2 oz vodka
2 oz lemon juice
6 oz extra virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
salt and pepper
Whisk all ingredients together or shake in a jar. For vinaigrette basics, see my post on How to Make a Basic Vinaigrette