This salad is the perfect ending to what I consider to be a perfect day.
Imagine -it is summer, and a nice warm, breezy day here in Upstate New York.
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We have lots to do in the gardens and yard – weeding, some early summer veggies to be picked, and some mowing. The chickens are pecking around contentedly in their little pasture, finding bugs and squabbling a bit over the scraps from the kitchen. Garage Kitty is napping in a bright sunny patch of the herb garden as I go out to pick some fresh bright flavors for this salad.
It is best to let the flavors in this salad blend for a little while, so I make it early in the day, while the hummingbirds buzz around the feeder on the front porch. Riley is napping out there too, but the hummers are used to him and ignore him. He long ago gave up the idea that he can catch a bird, so the ignoring is mutual.
Later on, while the grill is heating up, we enjoy a little snack and some wine on the porch, and watch the shadows grow long across the yard, and through the daylilies in the front garden. Larry cooks some Herb Grilled Chicken while I put the finishing touches on the rest of the meal, and finally, we sit down to this Mediterranean Orzo Salad.
A day like this may not be everyone’s idea of heaven, but it pretty much fills the bill for us, and this is the kind of day we enjoy as often as we can – either just the two of us, or with some friends and family added in.
This is also a very good salad to take to a picnic or cookout, because it is safe sitting on a picnic table for awhile – there is no mayo to go bad. And, I particularly like a meal that I can get mostly prepared early in the day and not have to think about again until dinner time.It is also a crowd-pleaser, and unusual enough that it is not likely to be duplicated by other guests. Here is how I like to make it.
- 2 medium cloves garlic
- Fresh herbs - rosemary, basil, parsley, oregano, thyme. Whatever you have on hand and what you enjoy. You want about 4 or 5 tablespoons total, once they are chopped medium fine. *see notes if you have to use dried herbs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 10 grinds fresh black pepper
- ⅓ cup white wine vinegar
- small drizzle of honey - ½ teaspoon or so
- ½ cup good quality, fruity olive oil
- 10 ounces dry orzo
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- ½ large green bell pepper, diced
- 2 large scallions, cut into thin slices
- ½ cup sun dried tomatoes, cut into thin ribbons
- ¼ cup sliced, pitted kalamata olives
- 5 to 6 ounces feta cheese, finely crumbled
- additional olive oil , if needed
- Cut the garlic roughly, sprinkle with a good pinch of kosher salt, and mash to a pasta, using side of a knife blade, or the tines of a dinner fork.
- Put the garlic, chopped herbs, salt and pepper into a small, high sided bowl.
- Add the vinegar and honey, and whisk until the salt is dissolved.
- Whisk in the olive slowly, until it is all incorporated and emulsified. Set aside.
- Cook the orzo, according to the package directions.
- Drain the orzo well, and place it in a large bowl.
- Mix in the vinaigrette.
- Add the peppers, scallions, sun dried tomatoes, olives and feta, and stir gently to combine.
- Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
- Before serving, stir again, and if needed, add another few tablespoons of olive oil - only if all of the vinaigrette has been absorbed. You just want a nice coating, not the salad swimming in the vinaigrette.
The other great thing about Mediterranean Orzo Salad, is that it’s very scaleable; easily doubled or tripled if you are feeding more people. You can also switch up the veggies if you like, or turn it into a one dish meal with the addition of some cooked chicken, or even tuna.