Orzo with zucchini, lemon, mint and feta

This lovely orzo salad is a perfect accompaniment to grilled fish, shrimp or meat, but I’m happy to add a crisp salad and call it dinner. This basic recipe, inspired by Contessa’s incredible orzo with roasted vegetables recipe, takes well to endless variations. This version uses pan-cooked vegetables for faster preparation.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
  • 1 1/2 lb (4-5 medium) zucchini, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, slivered, plus additional for garnish as desired
  • 1 medium lemon (zest and juice)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled or diced, plus additional for garnish as desired
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (about 1/2 cup between cooking vegetables and dressing salad)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

  1. Cook orzo to al dente in a large pot of boiling salted water (salty like the sea). Careful not to overcook, or the pasta will be mushy in the salad. Drain in a colander.
  2. Dice onion and zucchini. (For zucchini cut both ends off and slice in half lengthwise. Cut each half again lengthwise into half or thirds, depending on zucchini size. Cut long zucchini sticks into 1/2-inch pieces.)
  3. Mince garlic or use garlic press. Add garlic to diced onion and zucchini.
  4. Zest the lemon using a fine grater or vegetable peeler, mincing any large pieces. Set aside.
  5. Cut mint into fine slivers. Set aside with lemon zest.
  6. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Depending in the size of your skillet, you may need to cook vegetables in two batches. Add onion, zucchini and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft and starting to brown. We’re trying to mimic grilled vegetables on the stovetop here, so a bit of extra cooking is nice to get some caramelization from the onions. Season well with salt and pepper.
  7. Place drained orzo into a large bowl. Top with cooked vegetables (scrape the pan for all the good juices), lemon zest and mint. Drizzle with olive oil (3-4 tablespoons) and juice from the zested lemon. Mix gently. Add feta and mix one final time.
  8. Top with additional feta or mint as desired. Serve warm or room temperature.

Serves six as a side dish or three as a main course.

Notes

  • Other fresh herbs, such as basil or parsley, would be excellent substitutes for mint.
  • Can make a day ahead and store in refrigerator. To keep it fresh-looking leave out the mint and feta. Before serving, let warm to room temperature and add gently mix in mint and feta.
  • For a gluten-free option, try arborio rice. Cook as you would orzo – in large amount of salted water until al dente.

Here’s a link back to the post and pictures.

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