Our meandering summer RV travels took us to beautiful Montana this week. Besides the trill of seeing some of the most beautiful scenery in the world (honestly), we got to visit with our friends Jim and Carol. They are the type of people that never slow down; countless friends, activities, and family keep them extremely busy. When Carol invited us for dinner, I wanted to bring something that would make cooking the meal just a bit easier for her. But - I had another motive too. I had been craving the orzo salad I served at the brunch the day after Caroline's wedding. It was one of the things I had ordered from Market District, a grocery store chain that makes really yummy carry-out food. In my attempt to duplicate their Mediterranean Orzo Salad, I searched the internet and found one recipe that called for five pounds of uncooked orzo which would have resulted in 60 servings! Carol was only hosting six people, so I reduced the portions and substituted some ingredients. Roy really liked it - especially the next day - and gave me the nod to put it on the blog. Since it avoids a mayonnaise dressing, I think it would be great to take to a summertime pitch - in.
Mediterranean Orzo Salad - Serves Twelve
1 pound uncooked orzo 2 cups fresh spinach leaves 1 1/4 cups cherry tomatoes, halved 1 cup feta cheese, divided 1 cup cucumbers, chopped 1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced and pitted 1/2 cup garbanzo beans 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper 1/2 cup canned quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained Heaping 1/4 cup diced red onion 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice 3 garlic cloves, minced or put through a press 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Cook the orzo according to package directions.
Set the spinach aside.
In a large bowl, combine the cooked orzo, olives, cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup feta cheese, cucumber, garbanzo beans, red bell pepper, artichoke hearts, and red onion.
Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, garlic salt, oregano, black pepper, and red pepper flakes together. Pour over the orzo mixture and gently toss.
Just before serving:
Gently toss in the fresh spinach leaves.
Then sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of feta cheese over the top of the salad.
Mint, ginger and lime combine with honey to add a bit of refreshing but tangy sweetness.
Mist rose up from the lake in the cool early morning; later this Ozark camp setting turned wicked hot.
Last week Roy and I had the privilege of working at a church camp in Lebanon, Missouri to help pay the tuition for one of our Sunday School kids back home. As we have always found, when we volunteer, we are the ones who seem to reap benefits. We loved the beautiful setting, the wonderful people we worked with, and the experience that an angel would whisper a solution in our ears when we didn't quite know how to fix something!
One of the families we worked with was from Florida. Besides working and raising a busy family of three daughters, they also raise bees, harvest and package the honey, and then sell it. Thaddeus, the dad, held a little tasting and explained some things to us about honey.
Not all honeys were created equal! Notice the difference in color?
I was surprised to learn that most of the honey we buy in stores comes from China but it can also contain honey from the Ukraine, Argentina, and Brazil. But what really shocked me was that the Chinese honey is so filtered that every bit of pollen is gone from it and up to 12% of it is allowed to be corn syrup. That means that all the health benefits that it is supposed to have are gone from the honey bought from a regular store like Walmart.
Thaddeus said that honey really does vary in taste according to what kind of flowers the bees are located around. He had some amazing tasting honey he called "Fire Tower Palmetto". He moved some of his hives to an area that had a recent wild fire and the only plants that had blooms were palmettos.
Now I understand why buying local honey from small batch producers is so important. However, Thaddeus told us that labeling honey as organic is really a falsehood. No one can tell where exactly a bee will fly off to before returning to a hive and bees often travel several miles more than bee keepers realize.
After tasting five different kinds of honey we bought a couple of jars and I had to post this yummy fruit salad which uses honey in its zesty dressing.