Recipe for Whole Wheat Orzo and Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta, Olives, and Herbs

So far, this Whole Wheat Orzo Salad is my favorite new salad recipe this summer!
I’m becoming just a little infatuated with whole wheat orzo.  I first tried it last year in a very tasty salad with tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and feta, and I’ve already made the salad featured in this post three times and gobbled it up each time.  If you’re not familiar with orzo, it’s a tiny pasta shaped similar to rice but slightly bigger.   It’s often used in soups and pilafs, but it’s also a perfect pasta salad ingredient because it letts the pasta take a supporting role and puts the spotlight on the other ingredients.  Orzo is made with wheat, but for a gluten-free alternative I think brown rice would also be great in any salad that uses orzo.

I loved orzo long before knew about the South Beach Diet, but I only discovered whole wheat orzo last year.  In Salt Lake I can find both DeLallo Organic Whole Wheat Orzo and Rice Select Whole Wheat Orzo at Whole Foods.  If any readers have seen whole wheat orzo in other stores, let us know in the comments where you’ve found it.
Cook the orzo until it’s barely al dente (follow package directions for cooking time) and then drain and let cool.
Cut the zucchini and red bell peppers into fourths and brush with olive oil and Italian seasoning.  (I used Penzeys Pasta Sprinkle, which has sweet basil, Turkish oregano, thyme, and garlic.)
Grill the vegetables on high until they are cooked, but still slightly crisp, about 10-15 minutes.  Turn several times to get lots of grill marks.  Let vegetables cool for a few minutes.

Slice the green onions and chop the herbs.  (I used a combination or oregano and basil and increased the amount of herbs.)

Whisk together olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon, and dried oregano to make the dressing.

When the vegetables are cool, you should be able to pull the skins right off the red bell peppers (the skins are on the right.)  Cut peppers and zucchini into bite-sized pieces.
Put the zucchini and peppers into a bowl large enough to hold all the salad, add about 1/3 of the dressing, and stir so the vegetables are all coated with dressing.

Let the vegetables marinate in the dressing while you slice the olives in half and crumble the Feta.

Stir in the orzo, green onions, and herbs and add just enough dressing to moisten the salad.

Then gently stir in the olives and crumbled feta.  Season salad to taste with salt and fresh ground black pepper and serve room temperature or slightly chilled.

Whole Wheat Orzo and Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta, Olives, and Herbs
(Makes about 6 servings, adapted from a recipe by Pamela Anderson for Fine Cooking.)

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat orzo, cooked according to package directions
2 small zucchini
1 large red bell pepper
olive oil, for brushing vegetables
Italian seasoning or other dried herb seasoning (I used Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle)
1 can black olives, drained and cut in half
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 T chopped fresh basil
2 T chopped fresh oregano
(or use 4 T chopped fresh herbs of your choice such as parsley, mint, thyme, or chives)
1 can  black olives, drained and cut in half  (6 oz. drained)
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled

Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Instructions:

Preheat grill to high.  Cook orzo according to package directions, being careful not to overcook.  Drain and let cool while you prep other ingredients.
Cut the zucchini and red bell pepper lengthwise into fourths and remove seeds and stem from pepper.  Brush the vegetables on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with dried herb mix.  Turn the grill down to medium-high, then grill vegetables until they are cooked, but still slightly crisp, about 10-15 minutes.  I turned them several times so I had grill marks on all the sides.  Remove vegetables and let them cool.
Thinly slice green onions and chop fresh herbs.  Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon, and dried oregano to make the dressing.
When vegetables are cool enough to handle easily, pull the skins off red peppers.  (They should come off fairly easily, but no worries if some of the skin stays on.  You can put the peppers in a bowl and cover it with cling-wrap to “steam” them if you want to be sure you get all the skin off, but I didn’t have any trouble removing it without doing that.)  Cut the zucchini and pepper into bite-sized pieces and put into a plastic bowl large enough to hold all the salad ingredients.  Add about 1/3 of dressing and stir so all the vegetable pieces are coated with dressing.
Let the vegetables marinate while you drain olives, cut them into half, and crumble the feta.  Add the cooked orzo, green onions, and herbs to the vegetables and add enough dressing to moisten all ingredients.  (You may not need all the dressing.)  Gently stir in the olives and crumbled feta.
Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.  This salad will stay good in the fridge for several days, but only if you’re able to stop eating it!

South Beach Suggestions:
This salad is loaded with low-glycemic ingredients, but to make it more suitable for phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet I used whole wheat orzo and slightly decreased the amount of pasta in proportion to the other ingredients.  This recipe isn’t particularly low in fat, but other than the Feta cheese, it is what is considered to be “good fat” for the South Beach Diet.

More Salads You Could Make with Whole Wheat Orzo:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Whole Wheat Orzo Salad with Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Feta, and Herb Vinaigrette from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Cherry Tomato Orzo Salad from Simply Recipes
Cold Curried Orzo Salad from The Perfect Pantry
Greek Orzo Salad from My Baking Addiction
Lemon Orzo Salad with Asparagus, Spinach, and Feta from Two Peas and Their Pod
(Want even more recipes?  I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)   counter customizable free hit

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Bacon And Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

Bacon and Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

Mother’s Best by Lisa Schroeder with Danielle  Centoni; Taunton Press (2009) Photographs by Ellen  Silverman

Bacon and Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

Pasta

Lunch

 

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Ingredients

1 teaspoon                    kosher salt,  plus more for salting the pasta water 2 cups                      firmly packed  shredded sharp Cheddar cheese  (about 1⁄2 pound; Love Note 3)
1 pound                    fusilli (corkscrew)  or other pasta, preferably De Cecco 1/4 teaspoon                      freshly  ground black pepper
3/4 poundbacon,  diced (about 1 cup cooked; Love Notes 1 and 2) 1/2 cup                      sour cream, for  garnish
3 cups                    heavy cream 1/2 cup                      thinly  sliced scallions, (white and green parts), for garnish

                  Yield:                                4-6                Servings

directions

Prep:                  5 min                Total:                  30 min (Quick)

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  • 1Bring a medium (6- to 8-quart) pot of water to a boil. Salt it generously (it  should taste like the sea). Stir in the pasta and cook according to the package  directions. Drain (but don’t rinse, or you’ll rinse away starches that will help  thicken the sauce) and return to the empty pot.
  • 2Meanwhile, place a large (12- to 14-inch) sauté pan over high heat for  several minutes. When hot, add the bacon and sauté until browned and crispy  (lower the heat to medium-high if necessary to prevent scorching), about 5  minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and, using a slotted spoon or spatula,  remove the bacon from the pan and drain on paper towels.
  • 3Pour off the fat from the pan (into a metal can or heatproof cup, not down  the drain or you’ll potentially clog your pipes) and return the pan to  medium-high heat. Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil, scraping up any  browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat to medium and continue  to simmer until the cream is reduced slightly, about 3 minutes.
  • 4Add the Cheddar cheese and bacon. Stir well and cook over medium-high heat,  stirring now and then, until the cheese has melted and the mixture thickens,  about 3 minutes. Season with the salt and pepper.
  • 5Stir the sauce into the cooked and drained pasta in the pot. Place over  medium heat and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes to thicken the sauce and allow the  pasta to absorb the flavors,  stirring now and then.
  • 6Serve in individual bowls topped with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle  of sliced scallions.
  • 7Variation: Lorraine Mac & Cheese: You can easily change  up this recipe by using the classic flavors of a quiche Lorraine for  inspiration. You just have to add caramelized onions and substitute Swiss cheese  for the Cheddar.
  • 8Pour off all but 2 tablespoons grease from the cooked bacon. Add 2 cups of  finely sliced yellow onions and sauté over medium heat until soft, brown, and  caramelized, about 20 minutes. Pour in the 3 cups of cream and continue with the  recipe (step 3), substituting firmly packed shredded Gruyère or Swiss cheese for  the Cheddar.
  • 9If you have cooked, crumbled bacon and caramelized onions on hand, the recipe  is even easier. When stirring the cheese into the reduced cream, just add 1 cup  bacon crumbles and 1⁄2 cup caramelized onions, too. Then proceed with the  recipe.
  • 10Love Notes: At Mother’s, we prepare a lot of our components  in large batches ahead of time, like the bacon crumbles in this recipe. It’s a  real time-saver, and a good idea for home cooks, too. To make things easier, try  fitting the work into a recipe you’re already cooking, like this one. That way  you’re not getting pots and pans dirty just for the heck of it. For example,  cook twice the amount of bacon and save the rest in the fridge or freezer for  salads, scrambles, or sandwiches.
  • 11Dicing slippery, floppy bacon is tough—unless you firm it up with a 10- to  15-minute stint in the freezer. Stack the strips to make the job go even  faster.
  • 12Avoid preshredded cheese. It may seem like a time-saver, but much of the  cheese’s flavor has dissipated, and the starchy coating on the outside will  interfere with the sauce.

 

 

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