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Two Salads adapted from Ina Garten: Roasted Shrimp and Orzo and Beets with Orange Vinaigrette

Two Salads adapted from Ina Garten: Roasted Shrimp and Orzo and Beets with Orange Vinaigrette
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         Recipes that other cooks invent should be treated with great respect.  I’ve mentioned before that few things put me off more than someone commenting on a dish—very often negatively—that they have ‘doctored’ beyond recognition.   Still, if you do delve into the comments, you can certainly learn something and sometimes there’s a certain universality of opinion that is worth paying attention to.  In the case of today’s offerings, I didn’t make a single change to Ina Garten’s Beets with Orange Vinaigrette.  It’s a winner just as it is.  But when I got to Roasted Shrimp with Orzo, two things made me alter the original and, if I may be so bold, they were spectacular changes.

         Together, these two salads were the backbone of a birthday lunch we gave for our goddaughter, Olivia, who by some quirk of nature is suddenly 14 years old. (Egads!  Where did the time go?)
The Beets with Orange Vinaigrette originally appeared in Ina’s very first cookbook “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (Clarkson Potter 1999) and the Roasted Shrimp and Orzo in her 5th one, “The Barefoot Contessa At Home (Clarkson Potter 2006). 
If you’ve never had Ina’s Roasted Shrimp, you’re in for a revelation.  Roasting concentrates the shrimp flavor. We’ve posted her recipe for Roasted Shrimp Cocktail and once you’ve tried that you’ll never boil another shrimp, I can almost guarantee.  Added to the roasted shrimp is a wonderful set of aromatics.  Dill and Scallions and Parsley add color to the dish too.  The Feta cheese adds a tangy contrast.   So what exactly did I change?  Well back to those comments:  Lemon juice and olive oil go into the warm Orzo but a lot of recipe users felt there’s wasn’t enough citrus.  I upped the amount by half and the flavor came shining through. I also doubled the diced red onion. And I also used a full pound of Orzo.    

But the most fundamental change I made was the counter the comment that the dish was blander than expected.   And here, I was able to command my secret weapon, “Big Devil” from Pollen Ranch (www.pollenranch.com).  I’ve mentioned the merits of Fennel Pollen before and, in the interests of full disclosure, I am part of a group that develops recipes for Fennel Friday Cooking Club.  Ina’s Roasted Shrimp and Orzo arrived just when I was wondering how to use the sample I’d been sent. “Big Devil” is a blend of spicy heat made up of Pollen Ranch’s Fennel Pollen, red pepper seed, habanero, mustard seed, flour pepper mix, paprika, ginger, cayenne, garlic, onion, fleur de sel, curry and cilantro.  You owe it to yourself to see what Pollen Ranch can do for your cooking.   But if you’re reading this and want to use the recipe right away, you can substitute Red Pepper Flakes this time at least.  By the way, the dish is completely expandable. I made it to serve 7 and we had plenty leftover which was just as delicious the next day.  Feel free to multiply or divide. 

Beets at our farm stand are beautiful now–both the classic beet and the golden varieties. Ina goes so far as to say you can used canned beets in the recipe but I’d have to be very hard-pressed to even consider doing that.  It will take you an extra 50 minutes to cook the beets but it’s worth every minute.  Ina points out that the salad actually improves in taste if it’s done a day or even two in advance: the citrus flavored vinaigrette intensifies the flavor.  The only downside to a good long soak is that golden beets, if you use them, will lose their color and turn beet red.  And when you make the dish, find large navel oranges. For some reason our supermarket had only medium sized ones on offer.  These were very difficult to section.  I’d also add hold back half the zest and sprinkle it over the top just before serving.   Here are the recipes:

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