Cooking Q&A: How to Prepare Orzo

Q: What is orzo and how do I prepare it?

A: Orzo (pronounced “ohr-zoh") is a rice-shaped pasta; it also means “barley" in Italian. Because of the size and shape, orzo can be used in a fairly wide range of dishes -- hot and cold sides, soups, or salads.

Basic orzo recipe: Bring 4 cups water (or broth, for extra flavor) to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in 1 1/2 cups orzo. Cover the saucepan halfway and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the orzo is al dente.

You can sprinkle the finished orzo with Parmesan and serve it with these Lemon Chicken Kebabs. I've also seen umpteen recipes pairing orzo and feta. My favorite is a cold orzo salad made with the loot I bring back from the farmer's market: heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, and oregano.

Summer Orzo Salad

1 1/2 cups orzo
2 Tbl. sherry wine vinegar
1 Tbl. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb. large tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup oil-cured olives, sliced and pitted
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbl. parsley, chopped
1 Tbl. fresh oregano, chopped
Salt and pepper

Prepare orzo according to the basic recipe above. Drain. Rinse under cold water; drain again. Transfer orzo to a medium bowl to cool. Whisk vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl; gradually whisk in oil. Pour dressing over orzo. Stir in remaining ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (This can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature and stir before serving.)