Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Orzo Salad: Mildly Greek, Strongly Delicious

I'm not a huge fan of pasta salad. And I'm about to say something even more controversial here:  I'm not a huge fan of pasta, period. I know, that's crazy talk to a lot of people. But here's the thing - I always want more sauce, or more of what's on the pasta, than I want the pasta itself. Same with pizza. More toppings, less dough. Mind you, I've never made pasta from scratch, which I know makes a huge difference, and I have had some pretty ridiculously tasty pasta dishes in restaurants (I'm thinking of a major splurge at a place on College, involving gnocchi and lobster and probably 1.5 pounds of butter.  Now that.  That I would eat again). Also, I wasn't born in Italy, so maybe I just don't get it. Shocking, I know, what with all the freckles and fair skin.

Having said all that, I have a bit of a thing for orzo, the little rice-shaped beads of pasta. Orzo is cute-looking, cooks in no time, and really works well with others. And it makes for a really delicious, fresh salad when paired with some roasted vegetables, feta and olives.

I forgot to add the fresh basil prior to consumption. So sue me.

Do not leave me alone with this pan of vegetables.
As an aside, I eat roasted vegetables like candy. Not to be all holier than thou, because I also eat actual candy like candy (and potato chips? Shut the door), but I seriously can knock back vegetables, especially those that are a touch caramelized, and salted and peppered assertively, like it's going out of style.

Orzo Salad with Feta and Olives

A panful of roasted vegetables - I chopped up (in big chunks) half a big zucchini, a yellow pepper, a handful of mushrooms, and some green onions cut in 2-inch or so lengths     (you could also use eggplant, any other kind of pepper, red or white onion, any kind of squash, tomatoes - roasted tomatoes are crazy delicious, asparagus, the list goes on)
olive oil and salt and pepper to coat vegetables
1 cup of shelled, cooked edamame beans
1 cup of orzo
1/2 cup of crumbled feta
a handful of pitted black olives, chopped up a bit, optional
1/2 can of chopped artichoke hearts
1 tbsp of olive oil
2 tsp or so of white balsamic vinegar (or apple cider, or regular balsamic)
juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Plop your chopped vegetables onto a sheet pan, and toss with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. The best instrument for this is your very clean hands. Put the oiled, salted and peppered pan of veg in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes or so, shaking them up once or twice during cooking.

In the meantime, briefly cook your shelled edamame beans in boiling water. Drain and reserve. Use the same pot and put your water on to cook the orzo. Once it's come to a rolling boil, put a good whack of salt in the water. The water should taste salty. This is your one chance to actually season the pasta itself, so don't miss out on this fantastic opportunity. Cook the orzo for about 8 to 10 minutes, tasting as you go. Once it's ready, strain it and place in a big bowl, and add the edamame.

The edamame aspect is definitely the least Greek thing
happening here.
Once the vegetables are ready, place them in the same bowl as the orzo and edamame. Throw in the pitted, roughly chopped olives, the feta, and the artichoke hearts. Taste it at this point. It might be olive oil-y enough for you, in which case feel no obligation to add more, but do what you feel. Add your vinegar as well, and add salt and pepper to your taste. Squeeze your lemon juice over the whole shebang, and mix it up well. Serve with fresh basil on top.

Makes about 4 servings. This salad keeps really well and is a perfect lunchable.


  1. Dying to know two things: (i) why use half of a big zucchini instead of, say, the whole of a small(er) zucchini?, and (ii) is the 2nd-best instrument for tossing vegetables with olive oil and salt and pepper my unclean hands, or would in a scenario where all I've got is dirty hands, would I better off with like a wooden spoon or something? Call me.

  2. Rob, these are excellent questions, really. They didn't have any small zucchini at my local joint so I went with half a big one. You know what the best part of that scenario is though, brother? Now I can use the other half for something totally different. So many options, you know? Just...wow.

    In terms of your other question, I'll leave that one to the public health experts. Oh wait, no, I know. Go with the wooden spoon.