Ever since I moved to the country and planted an herb garden, I've become a mint snob. During the winter, when the only fresh mint comes from the grocery store, I crave recipes like this orzo salad, but when I reach for the mint in the produce section, I can't quite bring myself to buy it. For me, "seasonal" means walking out the front door with my nippers in hand, and returning to the kitchen with a fist full of fresh herbs. If you don't have an herb garden, please don't forego this salad; tweak it a bit with lemon zest in place of the mint, and you'll have a vibrant vegetarian pasta dish that's a bit different, but equally lovely. The lemon zest plays up the lemony flavor of the zahtar. So, mint or lemon -- everything else the same -- two salads in one!
Whole wheat orzo with cucumber, mint, feta, olives, and zahtar vinaigrette
For the dressing:
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp zahtar
Pinch of kosher salt
Pinch of fresh black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
For the salad:
1-1/2 cups whole wheat (or regular) orzo
2 cups chopped English (seedless) or Persian cucumber
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup roughly chopped Kalamata olives, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
In a small measuring cup, whisk together the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, zahtar, salt and pepper. In a slow stream, add the olive oil, and continue whisking until the ingredients are combined. Set aside.
Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a sauce pan. When the water boils, add the orzo. Reduce heat to low and cook for 6 minutes. Drain, rinse briefly under cool water, drain again, and transfer to a mixing bowl.
Toss the orzo with half of the dressing, and let it sit for a few minutes to absorb. Then, add the cucumber, feta, olives and mint. Toss well, and add only as much dressing as you need to moisten the ingredients.
If you're not serving right away, reserve any leftover dressing, and refrigerate it in a separate jar. Refrigerate the orzo for up to two days. When you're ready to serve, add the reserved dressing as needed.
More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Cold curried orzo
Calamari, vegetable and whole wheat orzo salad
Salmon chipotle chowder with orzo and corn
Curried orzo chicken salad
Baked shrimp with tomatoes and feta
Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Whole wheat orzo and grilled vegetable salad with feta, olives and herbs, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Orzo stuffed peppers, from Two Peas and Their Pod
Whole wheat orzo with mushrooms and baby spinach, from Kahakai Kitchen
Whole wheat orzo and lentil salad with orange dressing, from Enlightened Cooking
Sesame orzo salad, from Sarah's Cucina Bella
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