Everyday Gourmet (7/16/09)

A summer breeze

July 16, 2009

By Kim Dannies

A dish loaded with lemon, tomatoes and herbs galore, this Greek-inspired salad has “summer” written all over it. Easy, healthy, delicious and gorgeous? Check. It is sophisticated enough to accompany grilled fruits de mer at a fancy dinner party, and your family will love it, with a simple loaf of bread, for a casual summer supper.

Orzo is rice-shaped pasta, so there’s no gummy, lumpy, dressing-hog surface to deal with; this sleek salad retains its flavors nicely for a refreshing leftover lunch the next day, too. And now for the best part: You must get out and play! There’s a built in do-ahead feature that will make your time in the kitchen the easiest of summer breezes.

Lemony Orzo Salad

Boil a large saucepan of water, salt liberally and add 1 pound of dried orzo; cook al dente, about 7 to 8 minutes. Strain, rinse in hot water, reserve.

Dressing: In a mini-processor mince the zest of 2 lemons and 5 garlic cloves. Place the zest mixture in a large prep bowl. Add 1 cup fresh lemon juice; 1/2 cup olive oil; 2 generous pinches of kosher salt and 1 pinch of red pepper flakes. Whisk for 1 minute to blend well. Add 1 cup finely sliced scallions; 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half; and 1 raw zucchini, small dice cut. With a spatula, fold in the cooked orzo and cover well with dressing. Salad can be prepped up to 6 hours at this point, simply cool salad off before covering the prep bowl with plastic; set at room temperature.

Serving: Before serving, gently fold in bunches of chopped fresh mint, basil and oregano leaves, and 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese. Pour salad onto serving platter and top with 1 cup toasted pine nuts, pinches of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serves 10 to 12.

Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France. She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three college-aged daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.