Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Greek Orzo Pasta Salad

I go through serious food obsession phases. I fall in love with a food or an ingredient and I try to incorporate it into everything I do. I can’t get enough. I am slowly leaving a rather delicious period of Middle Eastern inspired dishes and traveling over to Greece. You’ve seen me incorporate yogurt into as many things as I can and this is why. These cooking phases, however, are an homage to the cuisines that have inspired me. I do not think that anyone in Greece would consider this pasta salad to be anything closely resembling a Greek dish. It does, however, have all of my favorite ingredients right now: cucumber, mint, yogurt, and one of my favorites of all time, feta. Crumbly, salty goodness that I can’t stop eating!! The orzo is really just a vehicle for eating the ingredients that I love. I made the salad as a side dish for dinner and then ate it by itself for lunch for the next few days. I was in heaven.
Orzo Pasta Salad
Orzo pasta (half a box)
1 cucumber
8 oz. feta
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1-2 Tablespoons fresh mint
1/2 cup yogurt
1 lemon
Olive oil

1. Cook orzo according to package instructions and place drained, warm orzo into a large bowl.
2. Peel a large cucumber and slice it down the middle. Use a spoon to scoop away the seeds (this is optional, but I think the seeds make the salad too watery. Also, this salad holds up great in the fridge for a few days, but if the cucumber water/seeds where there, I don’t think it would hold up as well.)
3. Chop the cucumber into bite side pieces.
4. Toast the almonds in a dry pan on med-high heat for 5 minutes or so until slightly browned.
5. Combine yogurt, juice and zest from a lemon, and chopped mint and a pinch of salt and pepper. If you have some dried oregano in the house, you can add a pinch of that too. Depending on how juicy your lemon is you may need to add some red wine vinegar to the mixture to loosen it up so that you have a creamy sauce that dresses the salad nicely. You don't want it to be too thick and lumpy.
6. Pour the mixture over the orzo and mix well. Drizzle some olive oil over and mix in well.
7. Chop the feta into cubes.
8. Combine the almonds, feta, cucumber, chopped parsley with the orzo.
9. Test to see if you need more salt and pepper or olive oil.
10. Enjoy!

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