I have a friend who makes the best orzo salad – we have coined it the “Million Dollar Orzo Salad” because the cost of the ingredients warrants taking a second (or, in my case, third) job. I hope she might guest blog for me in the future, but, in the meantime, I will share with you my version of a Greek Pasta Salad. The reason I like using orzo pasta in a salad is that the pasta doesn’t overpower the “salad.” Trust me, I was the queen of pasta salad in the 1980’s, but I’ve moved away from pasta drenched in Italian dressing with random vegetables. I like to focus on a theme and work to highlight the flavors associated with such. So, here’s my Greek Pasta Salad. As always, I encourage you to add your own twists. I used a bottled dressing in this version (we were heading out for Memorial Day Weekend and I was short on time and we have the luxury of Leo’s Coney Island which sells their dressing), but I’ve included a tried and true homemade dressing. A couple of notes: use a spoon to scrape out and remove the seeds from the cucumbers. Use whatever tomatoes look best, but my experience has been that the cherry and grape tomatoes are the most reliable (flavor-wise) year-round. For herbs, you could use mint – a Greek classic, but I find it somewhat overpowering, so I stick with oregano and basil (in my opinion, you can NEVER go wrong with basil). When it comes to the feta cheese, you can save some fat calories by using nonfat feta, but you will notice a huge difference in texture – nonfat/lowfat feta is very dry. If anything, go half and half on the feta.I much prefer to buy the feta in a whole block and crumble it to the size of my liking. If you buy crumbled feta, you lose control of the size of the feta in the salad. With any pasta salad, adjust the amount of dressing to your liking (I’m not trying to be vague, but this is a personal preference kind of thing). I prefer this salad room temperature, but refrigerate as necessary. Serves 12.
- 2 Boxes Orzo Pasta
- 2 English Cucumbers – seeded and chopped
- 2 Packages Cherry or Grape Tomatoes – cut into quarters
- 1 Cup Pitted Kalmata Olives
- 2 Packages Whole Feta Cheese (12 Oz.)
- 1/2 Red Onion – finely chopped
- 1/4 Cup Chopped Fresh Basil
- 4 TBS. Chopped Fresh Oregano (or 2 TBS. dried)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 1/2- 3/4 Cup Greek Dressing – (use bottled or see below for homemade recipe)
For the Greek Dressing:
- 1/4 Cup Red Wine Vinegar
- 1/8 Cup Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice (about 1 Lemon)
- 1 tsp. Dijon Mustard
- 1 Clove Garlic – finely minced
- 1 TBS. Fresh Oregano (or 1/2 TBS. Dried)
- 1-2 tsp. Salt
- 1/2 tsp. Freshly Ground Pepper
- 1/3 Cup Olive Oil1/2 Cup Canola (Vegetable) Oil
Combine all ingredients except oils in a blender. After well blended, add olive oil and canola in a steady stream while machine is on medium. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.
Prepare the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain under cold water until thoroughly cooled; transfer to a large bowl . Add chopped onion, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, basil, and oregano to pasta and mix well. Crumble and add feta cheese to mixture and combine. Add about 1/3 cup of dressing and mix well. Add additional dressing until salad is coated to your liking. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Serve chilled or at room temperature.