It’s August, and we are at top temperatures pushing 100 degrees here in Sunny Florida. There are days when I don’t feel like eating very much let alone be in the kitchen for too long. I look for ways to create tasty dishes, and if possible, I prefer not even to turn the oven on. This dish is a very quick, easy and light one. It has a little of everything. There are fresh vegetables for healthy texture and crunch, fresh herbs, creamy feta for a little salty bite, kalamata olives for an unmistakeable Mediterranean flavor, banana peppers for some heat, and of course orzo, which is a nice rice-shaped pasta for salads and side dishes. It’s all brought together with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. This dish is great as a side to any protein you like, or a vegetarian main dish as well. It’s great to bring along to a potluck, a picnic, or just to have something quick to snack on in the fridge. Get creative and use whichever veggies and herbs you like, as well as adding in some grilled shrimp, or chicken for more options. Whatever ingredients you choose, you’ll find this a quick and easy recipe to enjoy any time of year! So here we go…
Cut all your vegetables into a medium dice, slice your grape tomatoes in half, chop your fresh herbs, and measure out your feta cheese. You can buy it in a block and dice it or do what I did here and buy it already diced.
Combine the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, salt and pepper, and whisk to combine and emulsify into a nice vinaigrette.
Cook the orzo pasta according to manufacturers instructions, run under cool water to stop the cooking process, then drain well.
In a large bowl, toss the orzo, vegetables, herbs and dressing together first without adding the feta cheese just yet. Only add a little dressing at a time, so you don’t over dress it. Keep in mind that the orzo will absorb the dressing as it sits so you need to add enough, but taste it as you go to check it for flavor and also to see if you need to add more salt and pepper. When you are done combining, add the feta cheese and toss gently so you keep the chunky bits in tact.
Here you have it! Mediterranean Orzo Salad. Enjoy!
MEDITERRANEAN ORZO SALAD (Yields: 8 Servings)
1 lb Orzo Pasta
1 1/2 c Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, sliced in half
1 c Green Bell Pepper, medium dice
1 c Orange Bell Pepper, medium dice
1 c Red Onion, medium dice
1 c Cucumber, peeled, seeded, medium dice
3/4 c Kalamata Olives, sliced
3/4 c Banana Peppers, medium dice
1/2 c Fresh Basil, chopped
1/2 c Fresh Flat Leaf Italian Parsley, chopped
1 1/4 c Diced or crumbled Feta Cheese
1 1/2 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 c Balsamic Vinegar
1 TBS Dijon Mustard
1 TBS Honey
Salt and Pepper, to taste
- Cook orzo pasta in salted boiling water according to manufacturers instructions. Pour cooked orzo into a strainer, rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process, and drain well. Set aside.
- Chop all the vegetables and herbs, and set aside.
- In a bowl or liquid measuring cup, combine the dijon, honey, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper together, whisk until emulsified into a vinaigrette. Check for seasoning.
- In a large bowl, combine the orzo, vegetables and herbs. Toss to combine.
- Adding a little vinaigrette at a time, toss together until well combined and dressed with the vinaigrette to add plenty of flavor without over dressing. Check for seasoning.
- Finally, gently toss in the feta cheese, being careful not to break it up completely, but leave the cheese fairly chunky.