I first tasted a variant of this salad on an airplane in the glory days of airline travel, when they served real food with real utensils in-flight. I was intrigued with the savory-sweet combo of the spices and onion against the corn kernels, and wanted to reproduce this. It didn’t seem to really provide that perfect combination of flavors, but I couldn’t figure out what I was missing until my sister Christine came to visit: she added a shake or two of cayenne pepper to the pasta salad. Eureka! That was it.
Use Lemon Vinaigrette for your dressing and then gently shake the cayenne over the top of the salad, then blend in. Caution–a little cayenne goes a long way.
1/2 lb. (1/2 of a box) orzo (a rice-shaped pasta), cooked and drained–you may need to use a wire mesh strainer instead of a colander to drain (it’s tiny!)
1 can black beans (15 oz.), drained & rinsed
1/2 bag bag frozen WHITE tender corn, approx. 16 ounces
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 red onion, finely diced (pieces are about 1/4″ size)–roughly 1/2 to 2/3 cup
fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, to yield about 1/3 cup
Place in large bowl: cooked orzo, beans, corn, pepper, onion and cilantro; pour vinaigrette over the top and stir gently. As you toss it over the salad, add more olive oil if it looks dry. Season with salt, pepper and a small amount of cayenne, gently fold into salad. Be cautious: you can always add more cayenne. Sometimes I’ll just sprinkle that over the finished dish instead.
You can serve with grilled chicken breasts (marinate them also in the vinaigrette before cooking); garnish with lettuce leaf.
If you make it ahead and need to refrigerate it, bring it to room temperature to serve. Serves 4-6 main dish servings.
For a variation: serve with crumbled mild Feta cheese and halved grape tomatoes.