The Rest of the Best

By The Best of Bridge

Mediterranean Orzo and Vegetable Salad

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

THE TEST: I love the taste and texture of orzo, so when I saw this recipe I knew I had to give it a try. For those of you who are unfamiliar with orzo, it is rice-shaped pasta made out of hard wheat semolina (slightly smaller in size than a pine nut).

This is a great weeknight recipe, as you can cook the pasta and asparagus ahead of time, add the dressing and allow to sit until ready to serve. We happened to serve this dish with pan seared chicken breasts, but it would also be good with grilled lamb or simply by itself as a wonderful vegetarian option.

THE RESULTS: Very tasty (not to mention healthy) dish! I loved the dressing which had a nice bite from the champagne vinegar and Dijon mustard, yet was nicely balanced by the sweetness from the maple syrup. Fresh dill and capers gave it a lovely bright taste and great overall flavour, and the saltiness from the feta we added worked well together. Will definitely make this recipe again!

Click here for a copy of the recipe for Mediterranean Orzo and Vegetable Salad

Nuts and Bolts

RATING: 4 out of 5

THE TEST: Nuts and Bolts (or Party Mix) have long been a favourite to serve at social gatherings, especially around the holidays. This snack first began to gain popularity after the invention of television, mainly because you were able to consume it without having to interrupt your programme by heading to the stove. You can find many different Nuts and Bolts recipes online, including versions with a sweet or southwest flare. But our household has always believed it to be sacrilegious to mess with the traditional flavourings of Party Mix, and so we were excited to see this recipe keep to its original roots.

THE RESULTS: Every time I attempt to make nuts and bolts I get nervous, as Mr. Spock’s mom used to make huge batches of this snack during the Christmas holidays for all of her boys (we’re talking garbage bags full of the stuff!) So expectations are always high, but I am relieved to report that this time the results were met with approval! Mr. Spock gave it two thumbs up, our kids couldn’t get enough of it into their mouths, holiday guests enjoyed munching on handfuls of the stuff, and I loved how (unlike with store bought versions) no ingredients were involved that I could not pronounce. A winner!

Wrapped Brie with Caramelized Onions and Pepper Jelly

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

THE TEST: As previously mentioned in my “Christmas with the Stay-At-Home-Chef” post, I made this recipe as part of my appetizer lunch. Taking advantage of the kids’ preoccupation with new toys from Santa, I caramelized the onions in the morning and set them aside until we were ready to bake the brie. Assembly was straightforward and fast, a definite plus when working with tissue-thin sheets of phyllo pastry which dry so quickly.

Note: apparently you can wrap any leftover phyllo sheets in waxed paper and plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to a week (or simply refreeze).

THE RESULTS: This decadent snack was a huge hit and one that I will definitely serve again at future parties! The pecan and onion topping paired beautifully with the softened brie and the crispy pastry not only tasted great, but also made for a stunning presentation when surrounded by an assortment of crackers. Mr. Spock would have preferred having the red pepper jelly on the side as an accompaniment, allowing people to spoon as much (or little) as they wish. Also, some chopped rosemary (or any other herb of your choice) added to the onion mixture would be a nice touch and provide additional flavour.