A little summer in the dead of winter

February 17, 2013

Dairy, Pasta Dishes, Side Dishes, Vegetables


IngredientsSometimes you just stumble upon something that draws summer into the dead of winter.  That puffed sleeve blouse you pull out of the closet by mistake that if you bury your face into it, it brings back memories of that week spent at the beach. The half full bottle of “bubbles” tucked away in the saw-grass tote you stumbled over in the basement. That collection of  off beat post cards that you know exactly WHO to send them to. Those flowers you hung upside down from that trip to the mountains that you collected along the downhill return trip to the car.

Then there are the summer crops…tomatoes fat and juicy, runner beans weighing down the vines, corn shooting up in the shimmering heat. Acorn squash beginning to expanding along the prickly stems, the end of the season sugar peas. The smell of Rosemary wafting on the air mingling with the last of lilacs in the side yard….and the grass, the fresh-cut grass.

So for all of you out there in the world of WikiJan I bring you a bit of summer in the dead of winter, I kind of fell into this recipe. I was looking for a different side dish to add to a dinner I was passing along to two of my favorite people so I started pulling the bounty of the summer out of the fridge. The many bright colors from the various veggies I tossed in the bowl looked stellar! But there was a rather sizable hole in the whole thing, the dressing.  For me the dressing makes this salad. Sure the fresh veggies and cool looking orzo were great but it was…not up to standard for me.  Nothing I had in the fridge looked like a candidate as they were all heavy, gloppy over done “dressings”.  The would not add to only take away from the magic that was happening in my bowl. So what’s a body to do…Play with their FOOD!   The entire salad for me hangs totally on the dressing, its light but packs a flavor punch that will make your taste buds stand up and take notice.   If you would like this to be a main dish just toss in some diced chicken, some diced pepperoni would work as well.

Ok enough talking let’s get to cooking!

Orzo Salad

6 oz feta

1 c uncooked orzo

6 small green onions (or 1/2 c  finely sliced)

2 large Meyer Lemons

1 Shallot

1 thin Zucchini

1 thin Yellow squash

1/2 EACH Yellow and Orange Bell Peppers (Or 4-6 mini bell peppers)

1/2 can black olives

2 Roma Tomatoes (seeded)

1/2 c Garlic Olive oil

2-3 TB Honey

2 6″ sprigs fresh Rosemary (Leaves only)

4-6 6″ Sprigs Fresh Thyme (leaves only)

1 TS Fresh Ground Black Pepper

1/4 TS Kosher Salt

1 TB Minced Garlic

Start your water boiling for the orzo, don’t forget to salt your water to add flavor to you pasta, once you have a rolling boil toss in your orzo.

While your water is coming to a boil and your orzo is cooking you will need to assemble your dressing.

Zest both lemons, strip off the leaves from the Rosemary and Thyme, finely mince them and toss them into a small mixing bowl along with the oil, juice & zest of the lemons, garlic, salt, pepper. Give it a good stir then start off with 2 Tablespoons of honey, mix and taste. You want the dressing slightly sweet not overwhelmingly so. If there is still too much of an edge from the lemons add a bit more honey.

Give it a good whisk.

Give it a good whisk.

Once the orzo is done, drain the Orzo well and toss into a large mixing bowl and while still hot pour the dressing over top of the Orzo and mix well.  By adding the dressing to the hot Orzo it will start sucking the dressing up into the pasta which equals more flavor!

hot orzo

Remember hot orzo+dressing=more flavor!

OK now slice and dice your veggies to your heart’s content. Get them about the same size but don’t fret about  them all being exact.  Then its into the bowl with the pasta.

quick chop

Go for generally the same size but don’t sweat the exactness.

Olives- there is a VERY easy way to cut them in half without doing them one by one. Pour out enough olives that will cover the size of your hand. Lay your hand on top of the olives and with your knife just run it in the space between your flat hand on the olives and the cutting board. If the blade of your knife is long enough you should slice all of them in one fell swoop. Toss into the bowl with the pasta. Give everything a good stir getting all the way to the bottom making sure the dressing is on everything.

Just slice in the gap.

Just slice in the gap.

Cube your Feta into 1/4-1/2″ cubes if you are using crumbled feta just measure out and use 6oz. Now toss into the bowl and stir but do so gently so you don’t demolish your lovely cubes.

give it a nice stir...ya gotta love the colors!

give it a nice stir…ya gotta love the colors!

 

Oh yeah, that's how it should look...

Oh yeah, that’s how it should look…

Now if you are like me I am usually just digging in to the salad while it’s still warm BUT it really is better once it is chilled. The colors are bright & vibrant and will add a splash of summer to your winter menu.

 

Now go play with your food!

WikiJan

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