Doesn’t that just look like rice? Isn’t orzo just amazing? Come on! Rice-shaped pasta. I’m not sure what I love more. Rice-looking pasta or rice noodles. Both are staples. You need the former to make this Greek Orzo, and you need the latter to make Vietnamese Spring Rolls. But that’s another post.
If you can’t find orzo pasta, don’t fret. You can probably use small macaroni noodles or small shell pasta without problem. Just make enough pasta to balance with the amount of veggies in this dish.
This dish is lush with feta cheese, fresh snappy vegetables, artichoke hearts, and a bold marinade that will knock your socks off. The list of spices should not intimidate you. You all have those ingredients lying around, don’t you? Well if you don’t, please refer to my list of ‘Staple Foods’. It’ll make your life a lot easier when you have staple ingredients that are versatile for any dish you crave to make. If you use marinated artichoke hearts, just ignore my marinade recipe and use the marinade that came with the artichoke hearts instead. I won’t be insulted.. (maybe just a little, but not enough to hate you).
I came up with this recipe after having a really delicious version of orzo at this restaurant once. The dish lingers with me. There were crunchy cucumbers, sweet tomatoes, marinated artichoke hearts, bursts of spicy red onion, and fresh parsley to awaken my senses. And the feta’s saltiness was a welcoming bite.
Anyway, here goes. This is my attempt at a wonderful experience.
Grab these ingredients. Orzo pasta, feta, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, lemon, parsley.
Cook the pasta until just al dente. When it’s still got a little bite or chew to it.
Now drain the orzo and rinse with cold water. This is a cold salad, after all.
Now chop up your veggies…
Well, first we gotta seed the cucumbers with a spoon.
Then cut them into long sticks and then into little cubes.
Cut your tomatoes in half and squeeze the seeds out of them. They will make the salad too wet. No bueno.
Now dice your tomatoes. Cut them into strips, and then into small pieces.
Chop up your thawed or jarred artichoke hearts.
Chop up your red onions… and cry like a fat baby.
In a large bowl, add the nice rice-looking pasta.
And all of the chopped vegetables, parsley, and crumbled feta cheese.
Now onto the marinade/dressing. Add some red wine vinegar and lemon juice in a bowl.
Toss in your spices: lemon pepper, crushed red chili flakes, dried oregano, dried thyme, dried basil, and pepper.
Now crush your garlic cloves with your knife and fist. We’re gonna be fancy here.
Crushing the cloves should make it ridiculously easy to remove the peel.
Now mince up the garlic.
Add some salt. It’s gonna be a party.
Using the side of your knife, press down on the minced garlic and salt. Smush the two together using your knife, smushing back and forth with rhythm. Just keep going back and forth, folding the paste over itself again and again until it all comes together.
You’re forming a paste from the garlic and salt, and it should look like this. By doing this, we mask the harsh taste of raw garlic and make it edible.
Now add the garlic to the vinegar and spices.
Pouring in the olive oil in a slow steady steam, whisk the oil and vinegar mix together until it is thoroughly combined. It should emulsify pretty easily if you whisk vigorously.
Pour the marinade over the orzo salad.
Mix with a spatula to distribute the flavors.
Try it out!
Total time: 28 minutes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 8 min
Yield: 6 servings
1 ½ cups uncooked orzo pasta
1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts in water, drained and roughly chopped*
1 cup seeded and chopped tomatoes (about 3-4 roma tomatoes)
1 1/2 cup seeded and chopped cucumber (about one medium cucumber)
½ cup finely chopped red onion (about a quarter small red onion)
1 cup (about 4 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves (about a small handful)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried basil
½ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
Table salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
*If using marinated artichokes, skip directions for marinade preparation and use the artichoke marinade as the dressing for this salad.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside to continue draining.
In a large bowl, toss pasta with artichoke hearts, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta, and parsley to combine. Set aside. In a medium bowl, add vinegar, lemon juice, lemon pepper, oregano, thyme, basil, crushed red chili flakes, and ½ teaspoon black pepper and whisk to combine. Set aside.
On a cutting board, crush garlic clove with flat side of knife, placing flat side of knife over garlic cloves and pounding garlic cloves with your fist until crushed. Peel the garlic cloves and discard skin. Using knife, roughly chop garlic. Sprinkle 1 ½ teaspoons table salt over chopped garlic. Press down on chopped garlic with flat side of knife and work garlic and salt into a smooth, uniform paste. Add garlic paste to bowl with vinegar.
While whisking constantly, slowly add olive oil in steady stream to bowl until marinade is thoroughly blended. Toss pasta mixture with marinade. Season the pasta with salt and black pepper as desired. Serve. Best if served chilled.