Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mediterranean pasta salad

This is a quick easy to make pasta salad that keeps well and is easy to pack along for outdoor activities. This recipe doubles well for large batches.

1/2 lb whole wheat orzo
1/2 cup sliced organic kalamata olives, and 3 T reserved brine
1/2 jar roasted piquillo peppers, diced, and 3 T reserved juice/oil
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cucumber, diced (i didn't have one today)
1/4 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves minced garlic
8 oz. crumbled feta cheese crumbles
1 T dried herb blend, or a handful of fresh chopped herbs (oregano, thyme, rosemary, and basil)
1/2 t crushed red pepper flake
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil (amount will vary)
red wine vinegar

Put the water on to boil and prepare orzo as directed (don't forget to salt the water!). Do all your chopping and dicing (or take advantage of pre-cut items at the grocery store salad bar), keeping the onions and garlic small, so they don't overwhelm any bites. When the orzo is al dente, drain and put in a bowl, slightly coat with olive oil and stir to mix.
Add all your ingredients and pour in the juices from the olives and peppers. This is the secret to a really flavorful salad. Stir to mix well and add more olive oil until everything is well coated, but not overly so.
Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to your liking. The olive brine is quite salty, so it probably won't need too much. If you find it's not tangy enough, add some red wine vinegar, which I usually add a few splashes at a time and keep tasting until it's perfect. The pasta will soak up some of the juice as it sets, especially in the fridge, so keep that in mind. Add more oil and vinegar if needed.
Special Tidbits

This side salad becomes a pallette for your palate during the summer months. It is a smorgasbord for your favorite produce from your garden or the farmers market. Use fresh corn, peppers, zucchini, squash, eggplant, you name it. Grill huge veggie chunks and it becomes a meal in itself!

Mix and match different pastas and cheeses and serve it cold or at room temperature. If you're not a veggie chopper - don't let that stop you, get what you need from the salad bar...

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