Orzo & Brown Rice Salad with Shrimp, Basil, & Cherry Tomatoes

I've been on a rice salad streak lately. It started with a Mango-Cucumber concoction and now brings us to this combo of orzo and brown rice. (I've even got another rice recipe for later this week!) While grocery shopping a few days ago, I came across a bag of brown basmati and suddenly felt the urge to bring one home. This was weird for two reasons: 1) We don't eat brown rice often in my house...like...ever. And 2) That's because the Filipino in me will always crave white rice.

However, I find myself thoroughly enjoying the balanced flavor and texture of brown basmati rice. It's not as coarse or chewy, but still nutty and has a hearty bite. The fragrant flavor expected of basmati is also there. Paired with orzo pasta, it's the perfect foundation for a rice salad! This one is loaded with shrimp, fresh basil, and sweet cherry tomatoes!

Cook the rice by toasting it in olive oil, then simmering in water over low heat. Separately, cook the orzo in salted boiling water until al dente. Combine the two in a large mixing bowl to cool slightly while you prepare the sauce.

Start by zesting and juicing a lemon. The aroma of the lemon zest, alone, brightens up the whole dish, but the tartness also complements the shrimp and the hint of citrus in the basil.

I came home with a giant bunch of basil from the market, and now I have to come up with a million different ways to use it! If you're in the same (tasty/awesome) predicament as me, this recipe is a great (tasty/awesome) way to use up a large amount. Chop enough leaves to fill 1 cup. (I actually like to use the smaller, more tender leaves and keep them whole. Almost like baby spinach!)

The last of the aromatics are a couple of garlic cloves and sliced sweet onion.

In a skillet, saute the garlic and onions in olive oil until slightly browned. Add a whole basket of cherry tomatoes. (More from when I went tomato-crazy at the farmers market!) Do not stir, but give the pan a little shake every once in awhile. (Ahhh, that sizzle.)

Once the tomatoes begin to scorch and pop, add the shrimp, lemon juice, and zest. Season with salt and pepper. Again, simply shake the pan to combine everything. You want the tomatoes to maintain their shape.

As soon as the shrimp have turned pink and the flesh is opaque, remove the pan from the heat. Place the basil leaves right on top of the sauce, where they will wilt slightly.

Pour it all over the orzo and brown rice. Toss gently to coat the grains and to evenly combine all of the ingredients. (Ahhh, that smell.)

You can serve this salad hot out of the pan or room temperature, and it would taste great alongside grilled chicken or pork tenderloin. There are sweet, juicy pops of flavor from the shrimp and the tomatoes bursting in your mouth, the fragrant lemon and basil wake up your whole palate, and the rice and orzo are warm and filling. Perfect for weeknight dinners, this is an easy-to-make and beautiful dish!

Orzo & Brown Rice Salad with Shrimp, Basil, & Cherry Tomatoes (Serves 4)

Print Recipe
1 tbsp + 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
1/2 cup Brown Basmati Rice
1 cup Water + more for boiling
1/2 cup Orzo Pasta
2 Garlic Cloves, peeled
1/2 Small Sweet Onion, peeled & sliced
1 pint basket Cherry Tomatoes, stems/leaves removed & washed
3/4-1 lb Small Shrimp, peeled & head/tails removed
Zest & Juice of 1 Lemon
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/4 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 cup Fresh Chopped Basil Leaves
  1. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the brown rice, then stir to coat the grains. Toast slightly, about 1-2 minutes. Next, add the water and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, and simmer the rice on low heat according to the cooking time listed on the packaging (approximately 35-40 minutes). Off the stove, allow the rice to stand with the lid on, for an additional 10 minutes. Finally, fluff the rice with a fork and place in a mixing bowl to cool slightly.
  2. In a separate small saucepan, bring 2-3 cups of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo, and cook until "al dente." Drain the pasta, then add it to the mixing bowl with the brown rice.
  3. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the garlic and onions until slightly browned. Then, add the cherry tomatoes. Do not stir, but give the pan a little shake every once in awhile. Once the skins begin to scorch and pop, add the shrimp, lemon juice, and zest. Season with salt and pepper. Stir gently with a wooden spoon to evenly combine all of the ingredients. As soon as the shrimp are cooked, turn off the heat and add the chopped basil on top, wilting the leaves slightly.
  4. Top the brown rice and orzo with the shrimp-tomato mixture. Stir gently to combine. The rice and pasta will absorb the sauce.
  5. Serve warm or room temperature. Enjoy!