Mediterranean orzo salad is like making a smoothie- you basically use whatever you have on hand and it tastes different each time. The salad isn’t hugely different because I usually use the same vinaigrette, but the veggies might differ.
I was craving an orzo salad fix recently and didn’t have a great deal of orzo on hand, maybe a cup left in the bag. But I did have a box of small ring macaroni that I could make along with the orzo and round out the pasta part of my salad. I was really trying to make some kind of salad that would use a pound or so of fresh asparagus in an interesting way.
Usually an orzo salad is a cold dish I serve along with grilling during the summer months. Summer just seemed too far away and I wanted a cold asparagus fix. With orzo. And Kalamata olives. The rest would be whatever I found in the fridge.
I did the Rachael Ray fridge grab, putting way too many ingredients in my arms and stumbling over to the counter to lay them down. I’d found a cucumber, two tomatoes, chopped green onions, the asparagus, and some small sweet bell peppers. The Kalamata olive jar only held about 8 olives so a dive into the cupboard was necessary for a new jar. While there I grabbed a can of sliced black olives as well. It’s nearly impossible to over-olive this salad.
I put 2 pots of water on to boil and once one was bubbling added my orzo and ring macaroni with a teaspoon of salt. I peeled, quartered and sliced my cucumber and put it into a large bowl.
I snapped the tough bottoms off my asparagus and cut it into 1” pieces and when the second pot of water was boiling put the asparagus into the water. I let the asparagus cook for about 3 minutes then put it into cold water to bring the temperature back down. I like the asparagus with some texture still, the blanching is mostly to keep it nice and green for a few days.
When the pasta and orzo was done I drained and ran cold water over it to bring the temperature down as well. I put the pasta into a large bowl and added the asparagus.
I’d thinly sliced the little sweet peppers and added them both to the bowl.
I chopped up about ¼ cup of Kalamata olives and added them to the bowl along with the drained can of sliced black olives. I diced the two tomatoes and wished I had a few more to add to the salad but oh well. They would have to do.
I found a new recipe for a Mediterranean vinaigrette that I wanted to try. This one had red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic powder, basil, oregano and salt and pepper. I added dried cilantro…… then whisked it well. I poured it over the salad and tossed and stirred to coat the salad well with the vinaigrette.
I put the salad into a storage container with a lid and refrigerated it overnight. The next evening for dinner I stirred it again and served it with sandwiches. It was so flavorful, it was like having a summer meal again. Forget that our spring was taking forever to appear here up North, I had summer food and it was just what I’d been craving.
The tangy dressing, the Kalamata olives, the asparagus and the pasta all come together so nicely. I still wanted more pops of tomato so I had my P.S. (Produce Supplier/hubby) bring home a tub of cherry tomatoes which we halved and added t the salad. Now it was perfect, with more tomatoes per square inch. Again it was such a treat to eat it as a side dish.
The second night we had it with grilled lemon pepper chicken, since it had warmed just enough to grill outdoors. They complimented each other so well it occurred to me that adding chunks of chicken to the salad would make it a complete meal if one wanted to go that way. Since I prefer more vegetables and less meat, I’d be happy with a one dish meal of the salad with chicken added.
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
2 cups orzo, cooked and cooled
2 cups tomatoes; diced
1/2 cup green onions; chopped
4 cups asparagus; cut into 1″ pieces and blanched
1 large cucumber; peeled, quartered and sliced
3 small sweet peppers; sliced thinly
1/3 cup Kalamata olives; roughly chopped
1 small can sliced black olives
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
chopped spinach as garnish when served
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Add salad ingredients, minus the spinach, and mix in a large bowl.
Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients and toss with the salad.
Refrigerate until served. Garnish with chopped spinach if desired.
8 – 10 servings