Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Detroit Up North - Taking Along Greek Orzo Salad

Some wonderful friends came up with a great idea to invite a bunch of Detroiters to their hometown of Port Austin for a couple of fun-filled days. Dubbed “Detroit Up North,” this wonderful event converged on the quiet village of Port Austin, Michigan this past weekend. I have to thank the fabulous Boyles for getting people mobilized (some people even made the 150 mile ride on their bicycles) and providing a place for all of us to land and celebrate.
The main course was provided – two lambs roasted in a pit for more than a day. These were succulent and tender and served with naan bread and some yummy sauces. Many people brought side dishes to share, and the dining table, which spanned about 60 feet, was lined with countless salads and such. The biggest problem was that the plates were too small to sample everything!
I made a double batch of this Greek orzo salad to take along, and Ralph brought plenty of his always-requested homemade salsa. I really like this salad for events like this as it holds up well and, unlike a mayonnaise-based salad, is fine to sit out on a buffet for a while.  The ingredients provide a variety of textures and flavors, and the dressing is light enough so that it doesn’t overpower everything else. Whether it’s a summer cookout or you just want a light side dish, give this salad a try.

Greek Orzo Salad
1 – 1lb box orzo
1 ½ cup frozen peas
1/3 cup pine nuts (toasted)
4 oz Feta cheese (crumbled)
½ cup chopped celery leaves or fresh parsley
15-16 Kalamata olives
2 TBSP red wine vinegar
3 TBSP olive oil
¼ tsp salt
Dash pepper
Dash sugar

Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook orzo as directed on box (or until al dente). Drain orzo and rinse with cold water. Set aside and let cool.
Put peas in microwave safe bowl that is covered with plastic wrap. Cook in microwave for two-three minutes, until just cooked. Remove, uncover and set aside to cool.
In a dry small skillet, toast pine nuts until fragrant and golden brown.  Chop your celery leaves (or parsley) fine. Feta cheese is often sold in 4oz. containers already crumbled, but if you don’t have it that way, crumble cheese into a container and set aside. Roughly chop kalamata olives – make sure the pits are removed.
Get a bowl large enough to hold the orzo and the other ingredients. In the bottom of the bowl, pour the vinegar and oil and add the salt, pepper and sugar. Using a whisk beat the ingredients together until well combined. The dressing should stay together. Place the orzo into the bowl and stir orzo around so that all of it becomes lightly coated with the dressing. Put the rest of the ingredients into the bowl and stir one more time so they are well distributed. You can serve immediately or chill and hold for a later serving time. Enjoy!

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