I can’t help but think that this time last year I was in Greece on the Mediterranean enjoying the beautiful clear blue seas, traveling with my dear friend Kristin, delighting in news foods from a foreign land, and sipping on rich red wine. As I pondered our adventure I decided to use some familiar tastes of my trip to create a new light spring dish. I recently had an Orzo salad at Stein Ericksen’s in Park City and have wanted to recreate something similar ever since. So, this dish is inspired by my longing for Greece combined with the great foods of the prestigious ski lodges in Deer Valley.
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
1 cup fresh spinach, washed and stems removed
1/2 cup asparagus, cut into .5 in pieces
1 can marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 and 1/2 cups of orzo
5-10 basil leaves
zest of 1 lemon
2 TB lemon juice
2 TB olive oil
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
reserved artichoke marinade
Toasted pine nuts
Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add Orzo pasta and cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente (just barely crisp); drain. While pasta is cooking saute asparagus and mushrooms in 1 TB olive oil, about 5 minutes. Don’t cook the asparagus too long because you still want it to be crisp for the salad. Drain artichoke hearts, reserving liquid. Stack the spinach leaves and slice thinly into julienne strips (to julianne you can roll the leaves and slice lengthwise to create long thing strips of leaves). Prepare the basil the same way. Add the spinach to the drained hot pasta. Add red peppers, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the basil then drizzle the pasta with the olive oil. Top with feta and toasted pine nuts. If more sauce is needed add the reserved artichoke marinade.
*note: The best feta cheese comes in blocks not pre crumbled. Buy the block then crumble it yourself. The pre-crumbled feta available in stores is usually not the best part of the cheese.
*note #2: Wait until the end of a recipe to add fresh herbs so their aroma and flavor stays fresh. Dried herbs can be used at any part of the cooking process.