Thursday, July 15, 2010

Greek-Style Orzo Pasta Salad part of a Mediterranean Dinner for "Girls Night In"

It's Girl's Night In at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week. My opinion is that if you are having your favorite girls over for an evening of fun--whether it is inside, or out on the deck or lanai, is that it should be fun, delicious, and most of all easy! (And if you can slip some healthy in there too--it makes me happy!) I chose to go with Mark Bittman's Greek-Style Orzo Salad this week, which fits all of the above criteria as you can make it the night before, so the flavors meld, and then just sprinkle feta on top and serve.

Combine it with some quick and easy grilled lamb chops--on the table in minutes, some homemade hummus, made a few days ahead, and warmed pita bread and you have yourself a Mediterranean-style dinner party. (Of course some festive fruity cocktails would be a nice addition--but go easy on yourself and assign one of your friends as bartender or make up a picture of your favorite drink--check out the cocktails or Simple Saturday Sippers tabs on my side bar for some good ones to try.)

Of course I used Bittman's recipe (from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian") as a starting point and added a few extra goodies--cucumber, artichoke hearts, and capers to my salad. My changes are in red below.

Greek-Style Orzo Salad
adapted from "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman
(Serves 4)

8 ounces about 1 1/2 cups orzo (I used whole wheat orzo)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon (I used two)
freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups chopped, ripe tomato (I used cherry tomatoes, halved)
(1 Japanese cucumber, chopped)
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup black olives, pitted and roughly chopped (I used kalamata olives)
(1 can artichoke hearts, quartered)
(3 Tbsp capers, drained)
1 cup mixed fresh herbs like basil, parsley, mint or oregano, stemmed and chopped (I used parsley, mint, dill, and lemon thyme)
1/2 cup grated aged (firm) feta cheese or ricotta salata (I used crumbled feta)
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put a large pot of water on to boil and salt it. Drop in orzo and cook until tender, then rinse in a colander under cold running water. Transfer the cooked and cooled orzo to a large mixing bowl.

Dress the orzo with the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and toss it to coast the pasta. Taste and add more acid or salt if necessary.

Add the tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, olives, artichoke hearts, capers and herbs to the dressed orzo; toss them through once or twice. If possible, let the salad rest at room temperature for an hour before serving. Just before serving, sprinkle the cheese over the salad.

Notes/Results: A wonderful, not-too-heavy, but very full-of-flavor dinner! The salad is easy to make and tastes great, especially the next day. Vary the herbs with whatever you have on hand--I especially loved the lemon thyme (from my lanai) and the mint and dill. I also added an extra lemon's worth of juice--I like lots of lemon. I snuck some fiber in the salad and pita by using whole wheat orzo and a whole wheat pita/flat bread--I do like to keep my girls healthy! ;-)

I like my lamb chops cooked simply--especially when they are paired with a full flavored salad and hummus. These are just rubbed lightly with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper and grilled in my grill pan about 2-3 minutes per side--so it is still pink in the middle--perfect for me. Not a lamb fan or have girlfriends that don't eat it? Throw a few big shrimp on skewers and grill them for another fast-cooking option or do some of each for a surf and turf. All-in-all, the perfect low-effort, big results dinner making it a wonderful choice for a weeknight gathering when you don't have the time or desire to fuss over entertaining. I will make all of this again.

Besides going to IHCC, where you can see all the other fabulous Girls Night In creations by going here and following the links, I am sending the orzo salad to Presto Pasta Nights, founded by Ruth and hosted this week by my wonderful friend Pam from Sidewalk Shoes. She'll be rounding up all the incredible pasta dishes on her site on Friday--so stop by and take a look!



  1. Looks wonderful! Thanks for the entry!

  2. Did you bring the hummus to the party just for me? LOL!

    This looks like a fabulous meal Deb. I love scrumptious lamb chops, love them! I love that you added the artichokes, such great texture and flavor.

  3. what a great meal to stay in!

  4. My girls and I love pasta. Always. Especially when it involves feta!

  5. That is a perfect meal. I love orzo, love Mark Bittman and love the fact that the pasta can be made early in the day (it's a bazzillion degrees here this week)!

    Thanks for sharing with Presto Pasta Nights.

  6. Aw, always looking out for our well-being ;) Thanks Deb...tee hee...this sounds seriously nummy. I LOVE artichoke hearts...and I bet the capers were a great addition, too. YUM!!

  7. What a fabulous meal. I love the chops but your orzo steals the show. The color, number and type of vegetables make it a real treat. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

  8. Great meal. I don't think I've seen whole wheat orzo before.

  9. I love a good orzo salad! And this is packed with delicious goodies! It's the kind of salad I could snack on for days and never tire of.

  10. Yummy, and probably tastier eaten out on that lanai.


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