Okay, so I know Friday’s post about how to pit a cherry without a pitter was a little random. Well, except for the fact that it’s cherry season right now. And so you needed to know! Especially because now I’ve got a tasty orzo salad recipe to share, and the highlight of this delicious dish? That’s right – fresh cherries. Pitted ones, of course.

Cherry Hazelnut Orzo Salad

Last week, we received our first CSA box of the season. And it was a doozy! I plopped my little one on the kitchen counter and we pulled produce out of the box. Like a clown car, the fruits and veggies just kept coming. Oh, and allow me to brag for a moment: my toddler knew the names of most of them! “That’s asparagus!” So cute.

Now if she’d just eat some.

I’ve been wanting to come up with a new orzo salad (oh how I love this one), and as I pulled the cherries out of the box, I thought that fresh cherries might just be the inspiration ingredient I was waiting for.

Cherry Hazelnut Orzo Salad

So I cooked up some orzo, pitted my cherries, chopped some toasted hazelnuts, fresh mint, and scallions, and mixed it all together with a fresh honey-hazelnut vinaigrette. Cherry Hazelnut Orzo Salad was born – and that old favorite has been cast aside.

Okay, not really. My heart has doubled in size – I now love both orzo salads at the same time.

I love the toasty crunch of the hazelnuts, and the light hazelnutty flavor that just a touch of hazelnut oil imparts. The cherries add a nice, juicy sweet bite, and the scallions and mint add a fresh zestiness. “Fresh Zestiness” – that should be a band name.

Cherry Hazelnut Orzo Salad

This is one of those salads that tastes even better after it’s hung out for a while, so if you’re planning to bring it to a picnic or barbecue, that’s a total bonus. Just make it the day before and you won’t have to scramble the day-of. And your orzo salad will be even more delicious.

In our house, this salad will be an excellent addition to our “substantial sides” repertoire. It makes a terrific main dish for the vegetarian (moi), while it can act as a side for the carnivores.

Cherry Hazelnut Orzo Salad
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 30 mins

Cherry Hazelnut Orzo Salad

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Tender al dente orzo pasta, sweet summer cherries, and crunchy hazelnuts make for a scrumptious seasonal salad. Perfect picnic or potluck dish, and easy to make ahead of time.
Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt + 2 teaspoons olive oil for cooking the orzo
  • 1/2 pound bing cherries (pitted and cut in half or quarters)
  • 1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (lightly chopped)
  • 2 medium scallions (green onions, minced (about 3 tablespoons minced))
  • About 12 fresh mint leaves (chopped (about 1/4 cup chopped))
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Vinaigrette:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add orzo and boil until al dente according to your package directions (about 9 minutes for mine). Drain and toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil to help prevent sticking. Set aside to cool.
  • Once cool, pour orzo into a large bowl. Add cherries, hazelnuts, scallions, and mint. Toss gently to combine.
  • Add all vinaigrette ingredients to a small bowl and whisk together until smooth. Pour over salad. Stir until salad is coated with the dressing. Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired.
  • Refrigerate sealed until ready to serve. Keeps refrigerated up to three days; if you prefer very crunchy hazelnuts, you may want to wait and add them right before serving.
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