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Recipe for whole wheat orzo with cucumber, mint, feta, olives, and zahtar vinaigrette {vegetarian}


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

From the pantry, you'll need: whole wheat or regular orzo, lemon, white wine vinegar, zahtar, extra-virgin olive oil, feta cheese.

Serves 4.


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.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

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

Need more ideas for how to create salads with pizzazz? Get Dress Up Your Salad, my e-book packed with easy mix-and-match recipes, full-color photos and a few fun videos. Exciting salad recipes from everyday ingredients can be just one click away, on any computer, tablet or smart phone, with the FREE Kindle Reading app. Click here to learn more.

Picnic-perfect orzo salad with mint, olives and feta.

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That sounds SO GOOD!!!

I love everything in this and let me say the photo is gorgeous!

Bridget, this salad has all vibrant flavors I love. Hope you do, too.

Maris, hooray for having a well-stocked pantry!

yum - and the vinegar is new to me -- perfect side for your Greektown turkey meatballs

Mary, great menu idea. Love all of those Greek flavors together.

What a lovely whole grain pasta salad, great way to enjoy summer cucumbers and all the overflowing mint in your garden! I happen to have zaatar in my pantry and can't wait to try it in a salad dressing - great idea.

This is Orzo as in pasta, not barley, I assume by the cooking time:-). I really need to figure an alternatives to cucumber - I love it but it doesn't love me. We've got mint right through winter here on the island, and I'm always looking for ways to use it.

Jeanette, the whole rationale behind The Perfect Pantry is to give new ideas for how to use what you already have on hand -- including spices we buy for one recipe and never use for anything else (I'm guilty of that!). Hope you enjoy this dressing, which would also be great on steamed vegetables.

Dave, how about some lightly steamed zucchini?

I could probably just grate the zucchini coarsely and use it raw (Zucchini can be a problem not to waste here, more ideas are always good - yes I saw the waffles). I'm going to try it with barley anyway - I live on a remote island off the coast of Tasmania, and barley is in the pantry, but bought pasta isn't. Almost all the other ingredients (olives too) we grow or have in the pantry. I make my own pasta, but Orzo is beyond me. By the way, I am very much enjoying your site. I blundered on it by accident while trying to work out what do with some black sesame seeds an Asian friend gave me.

Dave, you could definitely use the barley in place of the pasta. Finely diced raw zucchini would work, too. (I wouldn't shred it; the zucchini will get lost in the texture of the dish.) So glad you found your way here!

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