You can tell from my cooking these days that I am ready for warm weather, dining al fresco, and fresh Spring vegetables! Never mind that we are going to be under a Winter Weather Advisory later tonight and my children will likely have Snow Day #29 tomorrow. We may have leafless trees, freezing rain and the possibility of snow outside, but we are visiting the Mediterranean at the dinner table. Tonight I am cooking some lamb chops on our grill pan since it's really not fit out for man or beast. I made a paste of kosher salt, garlic, black pepper and dried rosemary, them combined that with a little olive oil to marinate the chops. I wanted one easy side dish that could be both starch and vegetable. This Epicurious recipe for Lemony Orzo Salad was my starting point. I made a few changes, the most significant of which was to replace the feta cheese with ricotta salata. Ricotta salata is a salted, dried and pressed version of the more familiar ricotta cheese that is used in lasagna. I don't know the stats, but am certain the ricotta salata is lower in fat than the feta. The flavor is more subtle and not as salty.
Orzo Salad with Lemon and Ricotta Salata
- 1 cup uncooked orzo
- 1 cup zucchini, diced
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, minced
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/3 cup ricotta salata cheese, diced
- 3 tablespoons pitted kalamata olives, chopped
- Cook the orzo according to the package directions.
- Rinse with cold water and drain well.
- Combine the orzo, zucchini, and onion in a large bowl; toss well. Add the parsley, mint, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Then add the tomato, cheese, and olives, tossing gently to coat.
- Taste to check seasonings and add salt, pepper and lemon juice if needed.
- Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours. Serve at room temperature.
Prep time: 15 minutes + refrigeration time
This is a great do-ahead side dish that will definitely be making appearances at some of our lakeside potlucks this summer.