Lemon Orzo Salad

8 Sep

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Ok folks, back at you with another post. I’m a roll and I figured there was no reason to stop posting if I was in the mood to share food. (Unintentional rhyming.). This is another one that falls in the side dish category and I thought it was one worth sharing with you guys because it’s a great, QUICK, and healthy and it’s one that you can throw into any meal. It’s versatile and it’s not going to take much of any effort from you. What more can you ask for, right?!

As summer is winding down, it’s also a great last use for fresh veggies from a farmer’s market. If you like that sort of thing.

Before I start hitting you with photos, did want to mention how much I love seeing your likes and comments on these posts! I’m only writing these so that you all can hopefully find something fun and different to explore with in the kitchen, spark some creative juices and get you thinking about what YOU want to make tonight or…at bare minimum…make you smile and chuckle as you read. Never be shy about leaving a comment – those are my favorite! And if you don’t already follow me, click that lovely little button in the upper right on my page and you’ll be in the loop with every post that gets published.

AND…as history has shown…you’ll likely be entered into future blog giveaways! What fun!

So. How did I happen upon making Lemon Orzo Salad?

This one goes to my husband…I was trying to come up with a new and different option for a side the night we had my parents up for dinner a few weeks ago. He mentioned trying to do something with orzo, as we had a fairly ginormous container in our pantry that we haven’t used for anything in recent months. And maybe he just had a hankering for some orzo?! Regardless, I thought that was doable, so began my searching for what to throw in WITH said orzo to make it a true ‘side’. The goal was to be able to combine grains and veggies in a side that was NOT boring and tasted really good.

Key thing in making that happen is truly the lemon. TRUST me when I say, don’t skimp on the lemon. It’s essentially the ‘sauce’ of this dish and it makes the orzo incredibly tasty and it mixes very well with all the veggies. And I’m not a crazy “I LOVE LEMONS” type of person, but this did it for me. (Sorry for shouting, but I do assume there are some out there that have passionate love for lemons.)

This recipe was a true keeper and is a twist on the Two Peas and Their Pod (blog post of Lemon Orzo Salad with Asparagus, Spinach, and Feta (go check ’em out…LOTS of good grub featured on their site). Can’t wait to make this again…

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup orzo
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped/minced (you better believe I used my new garlic press for this…and it was more exciting than it should have been…I’m easily excited)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil (if you have Garlic infused Olive Oil…even better…this is a new favorite of mine in the kitchen!)
  • 10-12 asparagus spears, cut into 1 inch pieces (I wanted to add more than the original recipe, and I didn’t think it overpowered the orzo one bit)
  • 1 cup/1 hearty handful of packed fresh spinach
  • Juice of 1 large lemon (yes…the whole lemon)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (added a bit more feta…because I wanted to)
  • Salt and pepper

How to Make:

First, must cook up that orzo. I followed the directions on the side of my orzo container to figure out the water to orzo ratio, but Two Peas in a Pod recommends about 4 cups of water to the 1 cup of orzo. Bring the water to a boil, sprinkling in your pinch of salt. Then dump in the orzo. Like any pasta, it can get a bit sticky, so stir it every few minutes so it doesn’t get clumpy.

Once it’s tender (which I use the method of…if I take a piece and chew it, does it have the right texture?! Yes, very elaborate method), drain it over the sink and set it aside. You will now be moving on to the green stuff…

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Before you cook up the green stuff (also known as asparagus and spinach), you want to start sauteing the garlic in your olive oil. And is there ANYTHING better on this planet than the smell of garlic heating up?! I THINK NOT!

(I’m easily excited today…apologies.)

While the garlic is heating up, chop up the asparagus into easy to eat pieces (about 1-2″) and then add them into the garlic pan, swirling them around to start to soak up all of the garlic juices. You’ll saute those for roughly 3-4 minutes and then add in the spinach.

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I was not as experienced with cooking up spinach and forgot how crazy small spinach shrinks down to! It won’t take long and your puffy pile of spinach leaves (as seen in photo below) will be shrunken WAY down. Don’t cook much beyond the spinach getting down to its teeny tiny state, as you want the asparagus and spinach JUST cooked and still bright green. Don’t overcook here folks…no one likes mushy veggies!

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Now locate your orzo and pour into the serving bowl you wish to use. (Another aside…I was so excited to get to pull out serving dishes that we received as wedding presents. I mean, sadly, that was one of the best parts about making a fun dinner and hosting was getting to use some of these dishes for the first time! Ok, I realize my whole enthusiasm for things in the kitchen may be somewhat pathetic, but hey. It floats my boat, people.)

Into said bowl, pour the orzo and the freshly cooked veggies/garlic concoction. Toss it all around to coat all the orzo.

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Slice a lemon in half and juice the WHOLE thing. Don’t be frightened by all the lemon juice…just trust me. It won’t be overly lemony and the veggies and orzo will soak it up and make every bite, sooooo sooo good. Don’t forget to add a few shakes of S&P to it too.

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Make sure to toss the lemon around to really get the whole mixture coated and before you serve – sprinkle that feta all over the top.

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NOM. Nom nom nom. Yes, you will be so happy to have this on your table. No more boring side dishes for you! And so simple, right?!

As a final aside, this is phenomenal the day after, whether you choose to warm it up or eat it straight from the fridge in it’s Tupperware container like yours truly. You can also easily double this recipe to make it for a larger group OR to ensure yourself some leftovers for dinner the next night.

Happy cooking and side dish making!

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