Welcome to the Summer of Salads, where I will be featuring a seasonal, fresh, and beautiful salad every week for the next 12 weeks of summer! I absolutely love salads and find myself longing to make all the bright, colorful, beautifully arranged salads that jump out at me on my cookbook pages. I write them down on my to-do list and then I feed myself a variety of excuses about why I can't make them.
The top excuse being that we all know fresh summer produce makes for the very best salads! Especially when you can pluck fresh lettuces, tomatoes, and herbs from your very own backyard!
The second excuse is - arranging a beautiful salad takes work and can be rather fussy. You have to artfully arrange your produce and you want it all to be picture perfect and perfectly ripe at the same time, which takes some work and planning, and I am not really a planner. In fact, my mom used to say that I liked to fly by the seat of my pants. She wasn't wrong, but salad making requires planning and procuring or harvesting certain ingredients days in advance to ensure proper ripeness.Summer of Salads because the produce is about to be thriving and I have plenty of time to craft up some salad beauties because I have the summer off!
While I am waiting for my backyard garden to produce its bounty, I'm starting off with a version of a salad that we all know and love well, Ina's Greek Orzo Salad! We have likely all had a version of this salad featuring orzo, greens, veggies, feta and a zingy vinaigrette. In fact, there is a version of this in almost every deli across the country and for good reason...it's a delicious staple!
This version of Greek Orzo Salad DOES NOT have tomatoes (which is perfect, because they're not ready just yet)! However, this version does have chickpeas, olives, feta, lemon, arugula, dill, lemon, red pepper and capers - all which you can find pretty much any time of year, so there are just no excuses not to make this staple year-round!
Greek Orzo Salad
Adapted from Go-To Dinners
By Ina Garten
1 cup orzo (about 8 ounces)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus extra for serving (2 lemons)
1/2 cup good olive oil
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup (1'4") diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup (1/4") diced red onion
3 tablespoons capers in brine, drained
4 ounces Greek feta, 1/2" diced (not crumbled)
1/2 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved lengthwise
2 cups baby arugula
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced, for serving
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan and add the orzo and 1 tablespoon salt. Return the water to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, until the orzo is al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a 1-cup glass measuring cup. Pour the vinaigrette over the warm pasta and stir well. Add the chickpeas, bell pepper, onion capers, dill, feta, and olives and combine carefully.
Just before serving, stir in the arugula, add some sliced lemon, a squeeze of lemon juice, and taste for seasonings. Serve warm or at room temperature.