Thursday, August 16, 2007

Caprese by way of Pasta

Upon returning from vacation I noticed that the basil plant was going nuts and needed to be trimmed up. I wanted to fall back on my favorite basil use, especially during the summer-pesto. But I wanted to bring a little more to the party than my usually pesto takes...i.e. pasta and pesto, that's it, done, yum, over.

Now, what I ultimately did wasn't that much different from pasta and pesto, but I think it was a fun little play on the Italian fav, caprese salad...tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.

Caprese Pasta Salad
1 cup, uncooked orzo--cook to al dente, allow to cool
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4-6 heaping tablespoons of pesto--freshly made if you can!
8 oz ball of fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
3 medium, vine ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cutinto 1/4 inch cubes
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the orzo to al dente. Drain. Drizzle with the olive oil, stir to coat. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Stir in the pesto--add more or less if you like. When the pasta is coated, fold in the mozzarella and tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature or cool.

Very simple and super refreshing! And yes it's pasta and pesto, but it's a fun variation of caprese salad!

I served the pasta salad with a balsamic glazed pork loin chop. The balsamic sometimes shows up on the caprese salad, so I felt it would be a perfect accompaniment. I started by reducing a 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar in a shallow pan, by 1/2. I don't have the best balsamic, so I added about 1/4 tsp of sugar to help cut the manufactured acidic taste the vinegar had. The reduction was pretty nice and super thick when allowed to cool. I seasoned the chops with salt and pepper and a little olive oil. As they took on a quick sear on the grill pan I brushed them with the glaze, turning them to get a little more heat and allowing the glaze to carmelize slightly. Not bad. I had intended to put the chops in a brine before grilling, but I forgot. They were a little dry, but overall had good flavor.

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