Smoked salmon has long been a favorite with my family. We like it in our sandwiches, we like it in our dip, we like it in salad and we like it with pasta. We even like it in sushi.
But why does the smoked salmon in the photo look raw? It is raw. Smoked salmon can be hot smoked or cold smoked. When hot smoked, it is fully cooked. When cold smoked, it stays raw. We love smoked salmon in both forms but we are more partial to cold smoked salmon.
Why does the pasta look like rice? It’s called orzo (known as risoni in Italy). And it isn’t rice. It is pasta shaped like oversized rice grains. It is cooked like any other pasta but the cooking time is short. And that makes it ideal for quick meals.
Is orzo a must in this recipe? No. You may substitute any pasta shape you like (or have) but note that the cooking time will be different. The only other pasta shape I know of that can cook as fast as orzo is spaghettini (angel hair pasta).
About the herbs. I used only two — dill and mint. Dill is a popular addition to smoked salmon because its citrusy notes go well with the smokiness of the fish. Mint, on the other hand, gives the pasta dish a bright freshness with a cooling sensation in the mouth. Utterly delightful!
To cook this lovely pasta dish, boil the orzo in generously salted water and drain. Then, saute garlic and chili in olive oil just until aromatic. Toss in the cooked orzo, add the chopped dill and mint, and sprinkle in lemon zest. Add lemon pepper seasoning, lemon juice, toss well and transfer to a pasta bowl. Lay thinly sliced smoked salmon on top, optionally garnish with more mint. Serve with lemon wedges on the side to in drizzle more lemon juice.
Herb and lemon orzo with smoked salmon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil doesn't have to be extra virgin
- 1 clove garlic peeled and chopped
- 1 chili deseeded and chopped
- 6 tablespoons orzo cooked in salted water until al dente, and drained
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- lemon pepper seasoning to taste
- lemon juice to taste
- cold smoked salmon (as much as you like) torn into small pieces
- Heat the olive oil in a pan.
- Saute the garlic and chili just until aromatic.
- Add the cooked orzo and and toss to coat each grain with the flavorful oil.
- Throw in the dill and mint.
- Sprinkle in lemon zest and lemon pepper seasoning, and toss.
- Drizzle in lemon juice and toss well.
- Taste, add more lemon pepper seasoning and lemon juice, if needed, and toss again.
- Transfer the orzo to a bowl and top with torn slices of smoked salmon.
- Optionally, sprinkle in more mint.
- Serve with lemon wedges on the side.