One of our nieces is graduating from high school this year. The graduation party was outdoors, with a big striped canopy tent on the lawn, smiling guests, good conversation, and delicious food. We created our version of one of the dishes served at the party, and it just so happens to be our very first recipe post!
Lawn parties are so beautiful. They can really make a celebration feel special.
Beneath the tent there was a large buffet table covered in a white tablecloth and overflowing with the savory and sweet foods that everyone loves – mini turkey and ham sandwiches, fresh fruits and vegetable spreads, salads, and so many scrumptious desserts.
One of the salads was a delicious orzo salad with a blend of many ingredients including fresh basil, feta cheese, and pine nuts. We loved this dish so much that many of us went back to the buffet for seconds.
This orzo salad with feta cheese and fresh basil is wonderful for a large gathering because it is so easy to make, and easy to make a large amount of it. And it is great for a summer lunch or dinner alfresco, or an outdoor graduation celebration!
It is full of good things. We love finding dishes that are not only delicious, but that are created with simple healthy ingredients.
As we ate every delicious morsel at the graduation party, we relied on our taste buds, and our eyes, to decipher all of the wonderful ingredients that come together in this dish.
Over this past Memorial Day weekend, we created our own version of the recipe. Kathy and her hubby had a cookout at their house, and this salad was part of the holiday dinner. It was a hit!
We hope you like it as much as we do.
Orzo Salad with Feta Cheese & Fresh Basil
(Makes approx. 14 half cup servings)
For the Salad:
12 ounces orzo pasta, uncooked (orzo is a small rice-shaped pasta)
1/2 cup fresh basil, packed, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
1/2 cup baby spinach, sliced into 1/4 inch strips
3 tbsp pine nuts
1/4 cup red onion, chopped or minced
1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, halved and pitted
salt & pepper to taste
olive oil – enough to coat orzo after it is cooked, to prevent pasta from sticking
together while it is cooling
For the Dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp fresh lemon zest
(Note: use an organically grown lemon for the zest since it is part of the salad)
Cook the orzo in boiling salted water until soft, but firm. Don’t overcook. Drain orzo, and coat with a small amount of olive oil – just enough to keep the pasta from sticking together while cooling.
While the orzo is cooking, prepare the remaining salad ingredients to be later added to the cooled orzo. As with any recipe that has many ingredients, it’s the layering of these ingredients that give this dish it’s many flavor notes – the savory feta cheese, the crunch of the pine nut, the unmistakeable flavor of basil, the sweetness of grape tomato, the lemon and garlic in the dressing, and so on.
An easy way to cut the spinach leaves, is to stack them and slice many leaves at one time.
If you ever watch cooking shows, you probably have seen the chef slice fresh basil this way. Because many of the leaves are large and limp, it’s easier to stack them and then roll them, and then slice them into the 1/4 inch size strips.
Once the orzo has cooled, place in a large bowl, and place all the remaining ingredients on top of the orzo. Gently mix the ingredients into the pasta.
Preparing the dressing-
Mix the 1/4 cup olive oil, the lemon zest, the minced garlic, and the freshly squeezed lemon juice in a bowl. Mix with a fork or small whisk. The dressing will thicken as it is whisked. Pour the dressing over the salad, and toss gently coating all the ingredients with the dressing.
Refrigerate. Preparing this type of salad at least 3 hours ahead of serving time, allows the dressing to meld with all the ingredients into a very flavorful dish.
This recipe makes approximately 14 – 1/2 cup servings and is perfect with grilled burgers or chicken for summer dinner out on the patio or deck.
Refrigerate any remaining salad.
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