I’m trying to get every last bit of summer that I can. Yes, it can be summer-like here in Central Florida most of the year, but the fresh fruits and vegetables will soon change from the brilliant greens, reds, blues, and purples of summer to the darker autumn shades of green, orange, and brown. I do like butternut squash and pumpkin, but I’ll miss fresh ripe tomatoes, luscious strawberries, plump ripe blueberries, and crisp cucumbers.
I can hardly find some of my summer favorites at the market and those still available are rising in price—a sure sign that summer is about over. Soon, I’ll be making soups and stews, and roasted root vegetables. I’ll defrost some of my berries or open a jar of jam made with early spring strawberries and long for summer.
There is just enough time left to make a few more salads before the summer vegetables are all gone and too expensive to buy. I’ve had a hankering lately for Greek salad and Mom’s orzo pasta salad, so I decided to use my favorite ingredients from both recipes and make Greek Orzo Salad. Fresh oregano, Kalamata olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion (my favorite), green pepper, golden Greek peperoncini, and feta cheese tossed with chilled orzo and extra virgin olive oil make one of my favorite summer salads.
When I use orzo in any pasta salad, I like to cook it al dente (still a bit firm to the bite), let it cool at room temperature, then chill it a bit in the refrigerator before I use it in a recipe. It helps it retain its texture, and it doesn’t fall apart when mixed with other ingredients. I also don’t want my fresh vegetables to wilt or the cheese to melt, so I keep everything in the frig until I’m ready to make the salad. Fresh oregano has that extra bite to it. It’s fragrant for sure, but it can be overbearing. I like to use it in this recipe; I don’t like the texture of dried oregano when it’s part of a fresh salad. I pick a few healthy stems of oregano then I strip the leaves away, tossing the stems. I chop the leaves until the pieces are small. This keeps clumps of oregano from sticking together so that a whole recipe’s worth of oregano doesn’t end up in one forkful. I think that would be like eating several cloves of fresh garlic.
- 1 cup orzo, uncooked
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
- ¼ cup Kalamata olives, sliced
- ¼ cup red onion, chopped
- ¼ cup cucumbers, chopped
- ¼ cup green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 cup tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped
- 5 or 6 peperoncini
- 3.5 ounces of cubed feta cheese (optional)
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add teaspoon of salt. Add orzo to boiling water. Boil for about 9 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and drain well. Let orzo cool at room temperature or refrigerate until ready to use. Fluff with fork before adding ingredients.
- Prepare vegetables and herbs as directed. Toss vegetables, fresh oregano, and olive oil with orzo. Add feta cheese, if desired. Garnish with peperoncini. The salad is best when chilled.