This delightful orzo salad is so super amazing, it has easily nudged its way into the lineup of my favorite salads I could eat day in and day out for the rest of forever.
I literally just finished setting up my first-ever square foot garden, and the honest reason why I (and by I, I mean Brian) went to all the work of building garden boxes and mixing dirt when gardening is one of my least favorite hobbies is because: fresh basil.
Seriously. Fresh basil. I live for it in the summer. And if you’re thinking “dude, Mel, a patio pot could do the job instead of a square foot garden” or “basil is not exotic, you know grocery stores carry that kind of thing,” you clearly don’t know how much fresh basil I go through in a given summer. And now I have an exorbitant amount of garden space dedicated to fresh basil.
Fresh basil, may account for 43% of why I love this orzo salad. It brightens up the flavor in a way no other herb can really manage and compliments those juicy tomatoes and roasted vegetables perfectly.
The other component that has my heart in this dish is the beloved pine nuts. Now before you resist, I totally understand that to afford pine nuts these days is to willingly agree to sell your firstborn child. They are SO expensive which is sad for this pine nut loving gal. I keep a bag of them in my freezer and allocate them very, very carefully – and only for dishes that I know deserve their tiny presence.
This salad is worth it.
But, if you just can’t go down the pine nut route, I think sunflower seeds or chopped pistachios would be a good place to start for substitutions (and they can also just be eliminated completely, sob).
This salad screams easy weeknight dinner (serve with grilled chicken or not), summer BBQ and/or potluck, and top notch lunch. It’s so yummy, you guys. I included some variations in the recipe so make sure to read through the notes (i.e. grilling the veggies instead of roasting, among other things).
Make sure to get some fresh basil planted! You’re going to need it after I get through posting recipes this summer.
Want a no oven option? Try grilling the vegetables (the broccoli might be tricky, but you could cut the zucchini into spears for the grill and grill the red pepper whole) and then dicing up for the salad.
It probably goes without mention, but the vegetable options are endlessly adaptable so go crazy! This salad is best served at room temperature just after it's assembled but I'm not going to lie, the leftovers eaten straight from the fridge (that was all me, my mother-in-law had some warmed up just slightly) are pretty darn good, too.
I love pine nuts like crazy but I fully recognize that these days, you might have to sell your firstborn child to afford them. I keep a bag stashed in the freezer for occasional salads like this but feel free to try subbing in sunflower seeds, chopped pistachios, or leave them out.
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- 2 cups broccoli florets in bite-size pieces
- 2 medium zucchini, diced in bite-size pieces
- 1 red pepper, seeded, stemmed and diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounces orzo pasta
- 1 to 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup torn or chopped fresh basil
- 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds
- For the vinaigrette, whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, sugar or honey, olive oil, salt and pepper until emulsified and well-combined. Set aside (this can be made several days in advance and refrigerated - just whisk together again before using).
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and a couple pinches of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes; give them a good stir and cook for 10-15 minutes more until tender.
- While the vegetables cook, bring a pot of lightly salted water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente. Immediately after cooking and draining, add the orzo to a serving bowl, drizzle on half of the vinaigrette dressing and toss to combine.
- Scrape the roasted vegetables into the bowl with the orzo and give it a good stir. Add the cherry tomatoes and fresh basil and toss to combine. Add the rest of the vinaigrette and stir until everything is evenly coated. Sprinkle the feta cheese and pine nuts on top. Serve immediately at room temperature.
Recipe Source: adapted from this Food Network recipe