Minted Orzo Spring Salad
Hallelujah! My grocery store now stocks Orzo!! Not only that but SPRING is soon to make it's official stop here in the UK! We've had little glimpses of it around the last few weeks...mostly I have reduced my outdoor weather gear from winter coat, gloves, hat, scarf, and umbrella to just coat and umbrella. Soon it will just be umbrella! Whats even better than going without a coat is the new crop of spring vegetables that are in store right now. There's so many beautiful things about Spring, but new season food is at the top of my list. (Duh).
This recipe is one of those things I have been thinking of making for awhile now...and since Orzo seems to be in short supply around these parts (incredibly annoying) I hadn't been able to make it yet. BUT I spotted some the other day at the store and snapped it right up, and since asparagus have just come into season the timing couldn't be more perfect.
Orzo is a little tiny rice shaped pasta, how perfect! You know how much I love pasta, and you know how much I love miniature things. So naturally, I adore miniature pasta! *Swoon* Its one of those things I learned about from my Grandma K, she makes a rice pilaf with toasted orzo, rice, chicken stock and butter. It is one of those really simple things I've always tried to replicate, but since I didn't have orzo it wasn't quite the same. And also, its never quite the same as Grandma's is it? But I digress...
For this salad I did toast the orzo, I seem to be doing a lot of that these days. I am going by the philosophy of "if it tastes good, make more of it!". I pulled out all the stops here and got out the mandolin to slice the zucchini (courgette) as finely as humanly possible and I also managed to get away with fingertips unscathed! Result! Although the flavours in this salad may be classic to spring, for me its the added crunch of the pistachio and the feta dressing that really stand out. Of course then I also really love the freshness of the mint against the earthy snap of the asparagus. And lets admit it people, feta makes everything betta. (Sorry, I couldn't resist). So to summarize, I just really love this salad. I basically hoovered it into my mouth at great speed and if I could've licked the salad bowl I would've...oh ok, I did.
Minted Orzo Spring Salad
- For the salad:
- 1 cup / approx 210g orzo, uncooked
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- 2 cups / approx 450ml water, chicken, or vegetable stock. I used a splash of white wine with water and stock concentrate.
- 10 fine asparagus spears
- 1/2 medium zucchini (courgette), very thinly sliced
- 3 Tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
- 3 Tablespoons / 30g shelled, unroasted and unsalted pistachios
- For the dressing:
- approx 1/4 cup / 80g feta cheese, crumbled, plus a bit for sprinkling on top
- 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons best quality extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 3-4 teaspoons water, depending on how runny you like your dressing. I only used one teaspoon here as I wanted a creamy consistency to really coat all of the salad.
- salt and pepper to taste
In a medium heavy bottom skillet melt the butter. Toast the orzo until lightly golden brown and fragrant. Pour in the water or stock and bring to the boil, allow to simmer until tender. All of the liquid should absorb, however every orzo is different so you may need a little more or a little less liquid. Remove orzo to a large bowl and allow to cool.
Once cool, add the zucchini and the mint to the bowl.
In the meantime, put a small saucepan on to boil and blanche the asparagus spears for 2 minutes, then plunge them into ice water to cool. Once cool, slice into bite sized spears and toss into the bowl with the orzo.
In a small bowl add the red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and the feta cheese breaking up the feta whilst whisking into a dressing consistency. Add the water if you are using. *I used the Red Wine Feta vinaigrette from The Joy of Cooking as inspiration for this dressing (if it sounds familiar).* Add salt and pepper to taste, though you shouldn't need much salt with the feta.
If you are eating this right away, add half of the pistachios to the salad, pour over the dressing and mix well. Sprinkle over the rest of the pistachios and a bit of extra feta cheese.
If perhaps you were taking this to Easter brunch or a Passover potluck, I would pour the dressing over and put it in the fridge for a few hours, but leave all of the pistachios out until just before serving, as you wouldn't want them to go soggy!
Serves 4 as part of a meal, or 2 as a main lunch dish.