Chickpea Orzo Salad With Harissa-Roasted Eggplant
Where a typical potluck pasta salad is creamy and mayonnaise-rich, this one is vegetable-forward, crunchy and spicy. The heat comes from harissa, a North African paste typically made with red and hot peppers, and spices like coriander, caraway and cumin, which is used to marinate the vegetables and to dress the salad. Offset some of the intensity with mild mozzarella cheese, deeply toasted walnuts and salty bright-green olives, and no one will miss your great aunt’s bowties.
- Serves: 4 persons
- 3tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the pasta
- 2tablespoons harissa, plus more for seasoning
- 1large Italian eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
- Kosher salt
- Black pepper
- 8ounces orzo (or other small pasta)
- 1cup walnuts
- 1(15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ½cup pitted green olives (preferably bright green Castelvetranos), roughly chopped or torn
- ¼cup fresh thyme or fresh oregano, roughly chopped, or a mix of the two
- 8ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- Baby kale or mixed greens, for serving (optional)
Step 1Make the eggplant: Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil and harissa, then mix in the eggplant cubes and red pepper to coat. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer vegetables to one of the baking sheets and roast for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and charred in places.
Step 2Meanwhile, make the orzo: Bring a medium pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook to al dente according to package instructions. Drain, add to a large bowl, and mix with about 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Set aside to cool slightly while you finish cooking.
Step 3Spread the walnuts on the other baking sheet and toast in the hot oven (alongside the vegetables if you have room) for 4 to 6 minutes, until they’re fragrant and the skin is papery. (Watch carefully: These burn easily!) Roughly chop.
Step 4To the big bowl with the warm orzo, add the roasted vegetables. Then add the chickpeas, walnuts, olives, herbs and mozzarella. Taste for salt and pepper, and adjust as necessary. Stir in an additional dollop of harissa, if you’d like. Serve over a bed of greens for a more traditional salad.