Are you dusting off your Weber and wiping away the cobwebs? Loading up on charcoal briquets and wood chips? Topping off the Blue Rhino tank? Are you ready for grilling season?
When you think about grilling – most people think chops, steaks, chicken — meat, right? But just about anything can be enhanced by grilling. Especially vegetables because you just can’t coax the same smoky-char flavor from an oven — unless something goes horribly wrong.
Besides, you need something to go with all those tasty brontosaurus ribs the guys will be chest-pounding about this summer. So here it is. A grilled Greek orzo salad. It marries tender but crunchy grilled veg with orzo pasta, chunks of feta and a light citrusy vinaigrette.
Start by prepping the vegetables. Zucchini and red onion, cut into chunks that are large enough to get grill marks and small enough to be bite sized.
I like to cut the zucchini into 1/2″ thick rounds and skewer them crosswise to increase the surface to grill ratio. Thread red onions loosely onto skewers – so that they’re kissed by the heat of the grill. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then grill to crisp-tender doneness. FYI: I did this one on my own as Scott wasn’t home yet. Yep, I lit the grill, scrubbed the grates and supervised the fire! I was only missing my man-beverage – or she-man beverage (aka – a glass of wine).
Cook the orzo until just al dente (check your package directions) and then rinse and drain with lots of cold water to stop the cooking. Set aside the pasta while you prep the tomatoes, olives and feta.
The dressing is a simple, tangy lemon vinaigrette with dried oregano – fresh would be overpowering, I think.
The pros: This salad can be made ahead and kept chilled until ready to serve. The citrus vinaigrette means you don’t have to worry about the weird slime that forms on those mayonnaise-based salads after an hour on the picnic table.
The cons: you may need to make a double batch! It’s good!
This grilled Greek orzo salad will find its way onto your buffet time and again this summer.
Grilled Greek Orzo Salad
- 1 medium zucchini
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1/2 red onion
- 5 tablespoons olive oil divided
- sprinkle of kosher salt and grind of pepper
- 1 cup orzo pasta
- 1/2 cup kalamata olives
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes I used red and yellow grape tomatoes
- 3-4 green onions sliced
- 1/4 cup parsley chopped
- 4 ounces feta cheese diced
- 1 lemon zested and juiced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Fill a pot halfway with water and add a teaspoon of salt. Bring the pot to a boil and add the orzo pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally for 9-10 minutes for al dente, or according to package directions. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and drain. Set aside.
For grilling vegetables
- Heat the grill to high heat, about 450 degrees. Place the red pepper directly on the grates.
- Slice the zucchini into rounds, crosswise about 1/2-3/4" thick. Chunk the red onion into 1" pieces.
- If grilling, skewer the zucchini slices (skewer on the thin side, so that more of the flesh can get the char of the grill). Separate the layers of onion and loosely skewer. Brush 2 tablespoons olive oil over the onion and zucchini and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
For roasting vegetables - if you don't have a grill
- If you're not using a grill, heat your oven to 450. Place the red pepper in the oven and cook for 30 minutes or until tender. Place onion and zucchini chunks on a sheet pan. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Toss with your hands to coat the vegetables. Roast for 20 minutes. Remove onions and zucchini and set aside to cool.
- Place whole pepper in a small bowl covered with plastic wrap, or in a paper bag with the top folded over and sealed. Let the pepper sit in the bowl or bag until cooled to room temperature. Remove the skin from the outside of the pepper and discard - it should peel right off. Remove the stem and seeds. Cut the pepper into bite sized chunks.
Assemble the salad
- In a large bowl, combine, orzo, red pepper, zucchini, onion, olives, tomatoes, green onions, parsley and feta cheese. Toss to combine.
- In a small bowl combine the lemon zest, juice, olive oil, dijon, garlic, oregano, kosher salt and black pepper. Stir together until dressing has emulsified. Add dressing to the orzo salad and toss to coat. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
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