For about two weeks, I had the strangest desire to eat SOMETHING but I could not identify what it was. I spent countless hours pouring over cookbooks, reading menus online, and tasting random things in my kitchen to find EXACTLY what I was craving. Like an itch on a spot of my back unreachable alone, I drove myself crazy trying to find what I wanted to eat. I ate several chocolate bars thinking it was chocolate, a few bags of chips thinking that it was to be found at the bottom of a bag of kettle chips, and more than a few pints of ice cream were opened in the quest to satisfy this strange craving.
I kept thinking it was the perfect burger, and I made them at home for Son and Daughters and even went out to eat it with a friend, and still the itch remained. However, one day, friend and neighbor SH dropped by this orzo salad to me, saying that she had just made it at home. She shared something from her kitchen with me and although I had just come back from dinner (I took the kids to Chipotle, thinking I could cure it with a burrito - but again struck out.) I opened the container and smelled it. Instantly I was attracted to it, so I went into the kitchen, and on a full stomach took a bite. BAM! There it was. I was so shocked at my craving suddenly being hit I actually choked on a bit of the pasta had a bit of an unpleasant episode in the kitchen. I closed the pasta up so that I could enjoy it another day.
A few days later, after I had been working at church until late, I opened the container and ate that entire bowl of pasta up. It was exactly what I was craving - cilantro, soy, sweet from honey and apricots, and savory enough with the rotisserie chicken. Every single bite was the perfect bite and boy did I love it. SH graciously shared the recipe with me (I actually called her up and told her she HAD to give it to me) and voila! Here! It is comfortingly familiar with its Asian flavor notes, but different and exciting with the addition of apricots. Think Chinese Chicken Salad flavors with pasta.
Sesame Orzo with Chicken, Apricots, and Cilantro
Adapted from Kitchen Playdates by Lauren Bank Deen
Serves 5 to 6 people
1 lb orzo pasta
2 cups rotisserie chicken, diced (optional if you want vegetarian)
1 cup slivered almonds toasted (optional if there are allergies)
⅔ cup of diced dried apricots
⅔ cup of cilantro, chopped
5 scallions, thinly sliced
½ cup of canola or vegetable oil
½ cup of rice vinegar or cider vinegar
¼ cup toasted sesame oil
zest of 1 orange, plus 2 tablespoons of the juice
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed sesame seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook orzo according to package directions in salted water. Drain and set aside.
In a bowl, whisk together the oils, vinegar, orange zest, juice, soy sauce, sugar, salt, pepper, ginger and garlic. Alternatively, in the bowl of a mini prep, finely chop ginger and garlic together. Add vegetable oil, rice vinegar, sesame oil, orange juice, orange zest, soy sauce and honey. Blend together. (Make sure chop the garlic and ginger first, otherwise you will be left with large scary chunks.)
Mix the pasta and the dressing together. Do not be alarmed by the amount of dressing. The pasta absorbs the lovely flavor. Add in chicken, apricots, cilantro, scallions, almonds (optional). Season with salt and pepper. The salad can be served warm or chilled. If serving chilled, recheck the seasoning when you are ready to serve.
Delicious over baby spinach