Mediterranean Orzo Salad is a simple vegetarian side dish that’s packed with fresh and zesty flavors.
Guess what? We’re hittin’ the 50s later this week – whee!
I know I sound like a broken record, and have inaccurately predicted this about 16 times in the past 2 months, but this time I think the warmer (ish) weather is here to stay. That said, when Ben and I got married on April 5, 2008 there was a freak snow storm 3 days beforehand, so I can’t rule out another one, but luckily we were back up in the 60s by the time we exchanged vows.
Anyways, if the weather holds up over the next couple of weeks I’m thinking about busting out the grill for the season. Next week we’ll be in Charleston, but the week after that – STEAKS. Or something. I just need a dish with that flame-kissed flavor. Sizzling, and slightly charred. You know the taste.
The thought of grilling season quickly approaching has me thinking about picnic and BBQs recipes, so I whipped up a great little side dish you can take with you to any get together this spring or summer – Mediterranean Orzo Salad.
This simple, orzo-based side dish is packed with fresh and zesty flavors including tomatoes, kalamata olives, feta cheese, capers, and fresh parsley, tossed in a zingy Lemon Dressing, and is great warm or cold.
This is the perfect side to serve with grilled chicken, fish, or steak. Totally addicting, too, so grab a fork and a friend and get ready to dig in!
Start the Mediterranean Orzo Salad with 6oz orzo, which is pasta that kind of looks like rice. It’s a great little cut for side dishes! Cook the orzo in salted, boiling water until al dente, then drain and set aside to cool off for a bit.
Meanwhile, whip up the Lemon Dressing that will dress the pasta salad. First add 1/4 cup lemon juice and lots of salt and pepper into a food processor or bowl, then add 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 clove garlic (minced if you’re going the bowl/whisk route). Process or whisk while slowly drizzling in 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil. By the way, the honey doesn’t make this dressing taste sweet – it just kind of brings everything together. Don’t skip it! : )
Taste the dressing and add more salt & pepper if necessary, then get workin’ on the salad portion of the program.
In a large bowl add 1-1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half. I can’t wait ’til I can pluck these babies right off the vines in my garden. Last summer I planted 2 Sweet 100 plants and was harvesting 20+ super-sweet cherry tomatoes PER DAY at the height of the season!
Next add 1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced into rings. I usually buy these in bulk from the grocery store. That way I can buy only the amount I need vs leaving a forgotten, half-used jar of ‘em sitting in the back of my fridge.
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese goes in next… (fellow preggos – feta cheese is fine to eat as long as the milk listed in the ingredient list says “pasteurized”. I have yet to find unpasteurized feta cheese at the grocery store!)
Followed by 1/4 cup chopped parsley (also a garden staple!)
and 2 Tablespoons capers. Just…yum.
Toss everything together, then add the cooked pasta on top (pretend there’s cooked pasta on top.)
Drizzle enough lemon dressing on top of the salad, then toss to coat. Use the leftover dressing to marinate chicken, salmon, or shrimp then saute or grill and perch on top!
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
1-1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons capers
For the Lemon Dressing:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1 clove garlic, chopped
salt & pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- Cook orzo in a large pot of salted, boiling water until al dente then drain and set aside.
- For the Lemon Dressing: add lemon juice, honey, garlic, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor, or in a bowl, then slowly drizzle in oil while pulsing. Alternatively, slowly whisk in oil. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
- Combine tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives, parsley, and capers in a large bowl then add drained pasta. Pour over enough dressing to coat, then toss to combine. Serve warm/room temperature, or if serving cold, reserve remaining dressing to add before serving as pasta will have soaked some of it up.
As I mentioned, the remaining Lemon Dressing would be a divine marinade for chicken, fish, or shrimp to serve with the salad, but recently I bought this Brianna’s Creamy Balsamic Dressing that I’ve been drying to try out. Strangely, I didn’t LOVE the dressing straight from the jar, but as a chicken marinade it was fantastic! The chicken got a slightly sweet crust on the outside as it sauteed and I just gobbled it right up.
Come oooon, Spring! : )