When it’s hot outside, and you’re grilling, side dishes need to be kept simple. Usually a few ears of corn, cole slaw, and a bag of chips are the perfect companions to burgers, hot dogs, and any grilled chicken or meat. I like to make pasta salads too–“kitchen sink” type of pasta salads. Any bite-size pasta shape works (corkscrew, bow-tie, penne, whatever) plus the entire contents of my vegetable drawer (broccoli, grape tomatoes, red onion, etc.) and some Newman’s Own light Italian dressing. Mixed together and chilled–super simple and always a crowd pleaser.
I was watching an episode of “Barefoot Contessa” on the Food Network, and watched Ina Garten as she made a tomato feta pasta salad. Her dressing looked awesome (and it was a far cry from bottled dressing), so I decided to take that cue from her and improvise the rest with my fridge’s current “kitchen sink” of offerings.
First, I began by boiling half a box of orzo, rinsing for several minutes under cold water, then spraying with Pam to prevent from sticking.
I immediately added the dressing to the cooked orzo and stirred to combine. Even after rinsing under cold water, the orzo were still warm. It’s best to dress pasta when it’s still warm, as it allows the dressing to be absorbed.
Next, I chopped up a handful each of kalamata olives, flat leaf parsley, and fresh dill plus one-half of a tomato, one-half of a red onion, and a quarter of an English cucumber. I had a bunch of mixed greens too, so I threw a handful of that in too.
Once I mixed all of that together with the orzo, I added a small container of crumbled feta. A gentle stir together, and the flavors all combined beautifully. I popped the whole mix in the fridge for a few hours and served with sliders on a hot Summer evening. Greek bliss in every bite.
Greek Orzo Salad with Sun Dried Tomato and Feta
For the salad:
Half-pound (half a box) orzo pasta
3/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced in half
1 medium size tomato, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/4 of English cucumber, chopped
1-2 cups of mixed greens, roughly chopped or torn
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1 4-ounce container of crumbled feta
For the dressing: (adapted from Ina Garten)
6 sun-dried tomatoes
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon capers, drained
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup to 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan (according to preference)
Boil orzo according to package instructions. When slightly al dente, drain orzo into a colander and rinse under cold water for several minutes, stirring occasionally to release heat. Once cooled, spray with Pam and stir to coat. Pour orzo into a large bowl and set aside.
While orzo are boiling, start the dressing. In a food processor, add all of the ingredients for the dressing listed above. Blend until smooth with some texture remaining (it will look like a wet pesto.) With a spatula, add to the cooked orzo and stir. Add all of the other salad ingredients except for the feta cheese into the large bowl with the orzo and dressing. Stir to fully incorporate. Salt & pepper to taste, but be careful not to over-salt as the feta cheese has a lot of its own saltiness. Add the crumbled feta and toss together gently (you don’t want to break apart those crumbles.) Cover and chill in the fridge for several hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature.