I’ve been cooking a lot lately. And by a lot, I mean more than I’ve ever cooked in my life – variety-wise. Of course, I cook to eat every day, but I’ve never prepared this many distinct dishes at any other point in my existence. The thing is, sometimes I feel like what I prepare isn’t right for the day. Sometimes I want something light and other times I feel like I really want to dig into a home style meal. It really depends. The great part about running a blog like this is that as the recipe posts grow, so do my ratings of each dish and so do the choices I have available to me, depending on my mood.
Yesterday I wanted something light. If you asked me to make some manicotti, I would’ve declined. Same thing with a deep dish pizza or mac and cheese. What I really desired was a sort of side dish that I could nibble on here and there. With that in mind, I found the perfect recipe.
There are a ton of recipes for pasta side dishes over at Cooks Country. Many of them use orzo as the primary, workaround, ingredient. This is fine because orzo becomes light and fluffy when cooked properly and offers a pleasant texture. It can be combined with any number of ingredients, which keeps things exciting. If you aren’t familiar with orzo, just type that one word into Google and you’ll quickly learn a whole lot about it. It’s very versatile and very popular.
The recipe I settled on comes with the official name of Orzo Salad with Cucumber, Red Onion, and Mint. I modified it slightly to meet what I was able to find at the grocery store. I eliminated the raw garlic that was originally called for, switched the mint to parsley because trying to find fresh mint at the store I shop at would be the relative equivalent to riding a unicorn down main street and I substituted english cucumber for regular cucumber. I’ll tell you though, I didn’t change anything about the feta cheese, except for the quantity. I added some. As you may well know, feta makes everything betta. And in this case, feta is the shining star of the dish. It makes it really, really good.
Oh yeah, I also double up on the ingredients to make twice as much. I figured that by taking the time and trouble to prepare this dish is worth eating more of it as leftovers.
2 1/2 Cups Orzo (1 lb box)
Regular Table Salt
Ground Black Pepper
12 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Lemon Juice
1 Large Regular Cucumber, Halved and Sliced
6 Ounces Feta Cheese, Crumbled
1 Cup Red Onion, Chopped
1 Cup Fresh Parsley, Chopped
1/2 Cup Scallions, Chopped
One thing that surprised me was how well the feta played off the red onion. I thought the raw onion would be overpowering, but I was wrong. The saltiness and the texture of the cheese was a wonderful pair for this ingredient.
Prepare the Ingredients
Before you do anything, you’ll need to prep as many ingredients as you can. You can begin with chopping 1/2 cup of scallions.
Next, you can chop 1 cup of red onions. Both of these ingredients are going to add some nice color to your dish.
After that, you can chop 1 cup of fresh parsley and crumble 6 ounces of feta cheese.
Finally, you can trim the ends from the cucumber and slice it lengthwise. Then, cross cut it all the way down.
I’d say the slices should be about 1/8 of an inch thick.
Boil Water & Cook Orzo
Boil 4 quarts of water in a large pot on your stove top. Add 1 tablespoon of regular table salt to it. When water comes to a boil, add the 1 pound of orzo, stir and cook until almost al dente. You want to keep a bit of the chew. The pasta will continue to cook as it cools later on, so this needs to be precise. Keep tasting as you proceed.
When the pasta is finished, strain in a colander with small holes. Add 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil to the pot you cooked the orzo in and then add the pasta back to the pot. Stir pasta with the oil and let cool for about 20 minutes. I placed the pot in my freezer for about 5 minutes to hasten this.
The first thing you want to do is mix up the vinaigrette. In a large bowl, add the 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Then, add the 10 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil and whisk until uniform.
When you have those two ingredients combined, add in 1/2 teaspoon of regular table salt and 1/2 teaspoon of ground black pepper. Then, add in the 1 cup chopped red onion and the 1/2 cup chopped scallions. Mix thoroughly with the vinaigrette.
Then, add in the sliced cucumbers, mix and then add the cooked orzo and mix.
Finally, mix in the 6 ounces of crumbled feta cheese and the 1 cup of chopped fresh parsley. This is what you should have.
The Final Product
This is a really tasty dish. It’s light and airy and it would be a nice side. Laura and I enjoyed this as our main entree last night, so you could definitely go that route too. I think this would be nice at a picnic or bbq as well.
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Tania | My Kitchen Stories says
Looks delicious Jay. I am not usually one for pasta salads but Orzo is definitely the best one for this. I love it and with that dressing it’s a winner.
Jay Gaulard says
Thanks Tania! I agree. Pasta salads are tricky because ultimately, you end up eating tons of pasta. For some reason though, this one works and I really don’t feel all too bad about the orzo. With all those cucumbers in there, I think it’s okay. I’m planning on adding a few more of these types of salads and I may compensate for the pasta with much more in the way of vegetable. I’ve got my eye on the mushroom.
Thanks for the comment!