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.