Orzo With Olives and Sun-dried Tomatoes

Orzo with Olives and Sun-dried Tomatoes, this salad is drenched with the sunny flavors of Southern France -  basil, tomatoes, olives, pine nuts and balsamic vinegar.  Each of these ingredients characterizes Provencal cuisine.  But the olive, in particular, brings to mind the deep blue sky found there.  Bundles of lavender.  Boulangeries and patisseries on every corner.  The narrow roads built in the hills of St.-Paul de Vence.   Perhaps it was the jar of olives presented to me each morning from the innkeeper in Avignon for our day on the road, olives signify the luscious tranquility and carefree spirit of Provence and a clarity of air and mind alike that is intoxicating.

When the last gray glimpses of winter become just too much to bear, escape to the Mediterranean.  A bowl of bouillabaisse while taking in the sea air may be a stretch,  but a bowl of Orzo with Olives and Sun-dried Tomatoes can be made most simply with everyday ingredients found right in your SimplyCooking® Pantry.  Sip a glass of  Châteauneuf-du-Pape, pull out your linen napkins, linger over dinner and be transported for just a bit knowing bright, glorious days are just around the corner.

orzo with olives and sun-dried tomatoes

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 1/2 cups orzo
2/3 cup diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup pitted black olives, halved or quartered if large
2 Tbsp. dried basil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Put salted water on to boil for the orzo.  Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl, cover with hot water and soak 5 minutes.  Drain and slice the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces; set aside.

Lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat.  When they start to brown, remove the pan from the heat and cool.

Cook the orzo for 8 to 10 minutes until al dente, tender yet firm to the tooth.  Drain and transfer to a large bowl.  Add the hydrated and chopped sun-dried tomatoes, drained (if canned) diced tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and olives.  Stir in the toasted pine nuts, dried basil and Parmesan cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve chilled or room temperature.