Summer Picnic Side- Orzo Salad

If you have ever invited me over for a Summer BBQ, you have probably tasted my Orzo Salad. It is my go to recipe when asked to bring a side dish because it is quick to prepare, universally appealing, & pairs nicely with most main dishes.

I started making this recipe a few years ago after tasting something similar from Whole Foods, it has changed slightly over the years but has always been a family favorite at my house.

Orzo Pasta. Trader Joe's sells a package for $.99! Can't beat that.

Orzo Pasta. Trader Joe's sells a package for $.99! Can't beat that.

To prepare it, pick up a package of Orzo Pasta. Even though it looks like Rice, it is in fact pasta so it will be in the Pasta section of the grocery store, usually on the top shelf and sometimes hard to find. The recipe makes enough for 4 servings but I usually prepare the entire bag and increase the quantities because we love having left-overs in the fridge to snack on for a few days.

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The temperature the past few evenings has cooled down here in the Central Valley. It has even been a little breezy out. I like to take advantage of the cooler weather and head outside for a picnic when we can. Pack up this Salad with some tasty cheeses, bread (we made this Baguette in our Cooking Camp at YCA this week), sliced deli meats, and fresh fruits. If you haven't tried the Unexpected Cheddar from Trader Joe's yet, you are missing out! Pack a bottle of chilled wine and you are set! My favorite white for Summer is the Honey Moon Viognier from Trader Joe's and Kim Crawford's Sauvignon Blanc.

This recipe is quick to throw together. While the Pasta is boiling you can prepare all the ingredients so you throw is all together. My philosophy in the kitchen is to dirty as little dishes as possible. So in a big serving bowl combine all the ingredients for your dressing- Olive Oil, Red Wine Vinegar, Dried Oregano & Basil, and S&P to taste. Whisk it together until well blended.

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Then Prepare the remaining ingredients. Chop your Spinach and slice the Kalamata Olives. It is really helpful if you purchase the olives with the pits removed. Sun Dried tomatoes are often sold pre-sliced too, bonus time saver there! If the tomatoes are packed in oil, use some of the oil for your dressing, if they are in a package dry, that is fine too.

Combine these ingredients with the dressing and  add in the cooled pasta. To cool the pasta, I drain the pasta in a fine mesh colander. I add in a handful of Ice cubes and a cold water to speed the cooling process. Let it drain completely and pat dry.

Sprinkle on Crumbled Feta and Pine Nut and serve cold! Store in an air tight container and enjoy left overs too!

Recipe: Spinach & Orzo Pasta Salad

Ingredients:
1 cup dried Orzo

3 tbsp. each olive oil & red wine vinegar

1/2 tsp. each dried oregano & basil

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper

4 cup lightly packed baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 cup slivered dried tomatoes packed in oil

12 pitted Kalamata olives, sliced

1/4 cup Feta Cheese

Optional: Pine Nuts 

Directions:

1. Cook Orzo according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, oregano, basil, salt & pepper

2. Drain pasta, rinse with water until cool (I throw in some ice cubes to speed up the process) and drain again. Add to bowl with dressing and gently mix in spinach, tomatoes, olives, feta & (pine nuts) and combine. Add more salt to taste.
Serve cold and Enjoy!!