The grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes. -Julia Child

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

So here's something you won't hear often:  This is a recipe inspired by one of my favorite dishes from my college dining hall.  I will say that apparently our Dining Services has won many awards, so the food was probably on average slightly better than most other college's food.  Not that it didn't stop us from complaining at the time.

But this dish was one thing I was always happy to see on the menu.  It is simple in concept - orzo, tomatoes, spinach, and feta - but hard to get the flavors just right, as I discovered from trying to make this several times.  But I think I got it down...  For the uninitiated, orzo is like what you'd get if macaroni and rice had a baby.  It is pasta in a grain shape, about 1/2 inch long. 

Mediterranean Orzo Salad
Serves 6
by Me, inspired by PUDS
Printable Version

1/2 pound orzo
6 ounces fresh spinach
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved if large
1/3 pound feta, crumbled
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil  (or fresh if you have it, see below)
1 teaspoon dried oregano

Add orzo to a pot containing generously salted boiling water.  Cook according to directions on package.
Place spinach in a large colander.  When orzo has finished cooking, pour the pot's contents over the spinach, allowing the boiling water to wilt the spinach.  Shake out all liquid and pour orzo and spinach into a large bowl.
Stir in all remaining ingredients.  Taste for salt.  If feta or lemon was particularly mild you may wish to add up to an additional tablespoon white wine vinegar.

Verdict?  Well, you know I like this lots.  I hope it isn't just my nostalgia for college days talking.  Give this a try and let me know!  This is a great dish to bring to a party, especially in these summer months where you want something light but also filling.  I highly recommend you try this with fresh basil if you have it available - use about 1/4 cup and either cut it into fine ribbons chiffonade-style, or tear it into pieces and stir it in.  That will really take the dish to the next level, I promise you.


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