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Giada's Fregola Salad with Fresh Citrus and Red Onion (+ Avocado & Arugula)

Posted Jan 19 2011 2:46pm
Poor little salad. I wanted an excuse to try the bag of Fregola (or fregula) I have had in the pantry for a while and this Fregola Salad with Fresh Citrus and Red Onion from Giada with its orange segments and dressing, pink grapefruit, basil and mint seemed like a sunny "californiaesque" dish for our California Dreamin' theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs--especially when I added a chopped avocado and put it on a bed of baby arugula. Unfortunately when it came to making it I did it no favors, getting distracted by a work call and letting the fregola cook and then sit for too long which did not do much for the texture. Luckily, I only made a half batch and the flavor is fine, but I am pretty sure Giada would be disappointed in my performance and I don't blame her.

Fregola/fregula, is a Sardinian pasta where Semolina dough is rolled into small balls and roasted in the oven. It has similarities to Israeli couscous.

The bag I had, labeled mostly in Italian did not list any cooking times and just said "cook to al dente" so I followed the 10-12 minutes Giada lists in the recipe. At the end of 11 minutes, it still seemed pretty tough so I decided to keep going for a few minutes longer and that's where it all fell apart. A call from a client distracted me and it was at least another 10 minutes before I remembered to turn off and quickly, quietly drained the fregola. Note: When busy people are paying you money for non-food related business things it is impossible to say "Can I call you back after I have properly drained my fregola and placed it on a baking sheet to rest for 10 minutes?" Of course the late afternoon "just a quick question" call became a full blown conference call with others on speakerphone and turned into about an hour while my poor fregola sat and clumped.

By the time the call was finally over I had a large gooey lump of fregola which I broke up with a fork and hoped that the citrus juice and olive oil dressing would pull it out of its sad state. Not so much. At that point I probably should have just stopped and cooked up the second half of the fregola bag but honestly I was kind of over it. (BTW--this impatience and frustration shows in my citrus segmenting--a bit rough around the edges). I ended up throwing it all together and hoping for the best.

And, overall it really wasn't a bad salad--more mushy than I would have liked and not a big "wow" for me (I would have liked more zing in the dressing and having a sweeter grapefruit), but it is only fair that I attribute it to the cook (yes, that would be me), rather than the recipe. It is a pretty salad, colorful, filling enough on its own--especially with the avocado I added, or it would also be nice with a piece of grilled fish. I may try a variation of this salad again in a better frame of mind and hopefully without distractions, but since fregola doesn't come cheap I will likely make something else with my semi-precious remaining half bag.

You can find the recipe at the Food Network here .

Fregola Salad with Fresh Citrus and Red Onion
Adapted From Giada De Laurentiis
(Makes 4-6 Servings)

For the orange oil:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 orange, zested

For the salad:
8 cups chicken broth
1 pound fregola pasta (or orzo)
1 orange
1 pink grapefruit
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
(I added 1 avocado diced and served it on a bed of baby arugula)

For the orange oil:
Combine the olive oil and the orange zest in a small bowl and set aside.

For the salad:
Bring the large saucepan of chicken broth to a boil over high heat. Add the fregola pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 10 to 12 minutes. Drain pasta onto a large baking sheet. Spread to a single layer and let cool for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, using a small knife cut the skin off the orange and grapefruit. Over a large bowl, cut out the segments of the citrus flesh and catch the juices. Add the onion, mint, basil, fennel seeds, salt, pepper, and cooled fregola pasta.

Add the reserved orange oil to the pasta. Toss all the ingredients together and serve.

You can check out the other IHCC participants California Dreamin' dishes by going to the post here and following the links.
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