Friday, April 9, 2010

Favorite Recipe--Orzo Pasta Salad

I posted my Food Rules yesterday. In case you don't remember, rule # 9 was that everyone should have a couple of no-fail recipes. These are the kind of recipes that you know will be good every time you make them. The kind of recipes that people always ask you to bring. The kind that you are "famous"" for.

I have a few of them.
Guacamole. Secret ingredient: granulated garlic. Not garlic salt. There is a difference.
Rice Crispy Treats. Double the butter, double the marshmallows. Otherwise they taste like sawdust.
Banana Bread. Whole wheat flour, applesauce and flax seed and it still tastes divine.

My mother in law, Mary, makes an amazing potato salad. It is requested at every barbecue. I don't like potato salad. At all. But I love her potato salad. I should learn how to make it, but of course she has no recipe and thus far I have been pretty content to sit back and let her do the work. It's so good I am afraid I might not be able to reproduce it.

So I'm not giving you the potato salad, but I am offering another kind of salad. It's a pasta salad and probably my favorite one. I made it for my mom a while back and now she makes it all the time. She's addicted.

Sometimes I tire of the same old pasta salad. This one is different. It is fresh and light and there is no Italian vinaigrette to be seen. This will be the perfect salad to make all spring and summer when the farmers markets, or, o bliss, your own gardens, are overflowing with perfectly ripe vegetables.

And the best thing is that you can adjust it to your own tastes. Add in your favorite veggies and make it all yours. Then you can bring it to the next barbecue and I just bet you'll be famous. For the pasta salad anyway.

Greta's Orzo Pasta Salad

1 16 oz package of Orzo pasta
1 clove garlic
2 medium zucchini
2 medium yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup pine nuts
1 cup crumbled feta
Juice of 1 lemon
A handful of fresh oregano
olive oil, salt and pepper to taste

To make:
Cook pasta according to package directions. Make it al dente.
After draining, immediately pour into a large bowl and stir in a bit of olive oil to keep pasta from sticking.
Add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large frying pan. Heat.

Finely dice garlic.
Chop dice zucchini and squash.
Add garlic, zucchini and squash to pan and saute until squash is tender but not mushy.
When done, stir it into the pasta.
Dice the red bell pepper.
Add it to the pasta.
Halve the cherry tomatoes and add to pasta.
Add pine nuts and half the feta cheese to the pasta.
The cheese will melt and create a nice "dressing" for the pasta.
Stir it all together.
Squeeze the lemon over the pasta.

Add salt and pepper to taste.
If you like, finely chop the fresh oregano and add it to the pasta.

Let the pasta cool a bit. Then add the rest of the feta cheese.
You can serve the pasta at room temperature or put it into the fridge and serve it chilled.

Serves 2 for several days of dinner and lunch.
Serves 4 for dinner alongside some chicken or sausage.
Carries along wonderfully to a picnic or barbecue.

As I said before, this dish can be changed to suit your tastes. I always add more zucchini and squash because I love it so much.
You could also try asparagus or even roasted egg plant.
I like to keep my peppers raw because they add a nice crunch. But you could also roast them.
A bit of torn arugula adds a nice zing to this pasta also.
To make it more substantial, you can add pieces of a rotisserie chicken, or roast a chicken yourself.
I also like to grill up some chicken sausage and add that to the pasta.

Happy cooking, happy eating and I hope you get to do lots of both this weekend.


Anonymous said...

this recipe looks amazing! I think i will add this to next weeks menu. would you think chicken would be good with it? YUM!!

Lillian said...

Yum....I want some right now. I will have to wait til the marrow. I have everything I need to make it yummy, except the arugula. My mouth is watering. There is but one thing bad about this salad...I can't stop at one helping.