Look, I have something for you! That’s not baking, nor dessert. Something that can be called into service for barbecues and potlucks all summer long, or hang out in your fridge and wait for you to need a scoop of something real instead of a handful of chips or another piece of raisin toast. I feel like I’ve been shortchanging y’all lately, and when I was reminded of this salad – and how delicious it is – I got all tingly (as W said this morning when he woke up with his hand asleep for the first time: “it feels all sparkly, like a fuzzy peach”) – and wanted to rush home and tell you about it immediately. Of course it took me a day or two. Mostly because everybody ate it.
This is something my mom and I came up with years ago – like decades – to bring to a baby shower. I have little memory of whose (I have it narrowed down, but can’t be sure) but I do remember this salad. (Priorities.) It has orzo, and spinach, and purple onion, and lemon… we tossed things in without measuring, and when it disappeared and people asked for the recipe we figured we had better remember how we made it. The next time we used rice, and it quickly became that go-to recipe we used any time we had to bring something somewhere. Until we didn’t.
And then my mom made it on Saturday. (We had a Food Revolution Day dinner. It was great. I was so distracted by worry that there might not be enough food -there was- that I forgot my camera.)
Orzo – that slippery little pointy-ended pasta that looks like giant grains of rice – are generally overlooked as a base for a salad. (Or for anything, really. Does anyone outside of Italy cook with orzo anymore?) Its size is perfect for salads, slipping into the nooks and crannies between veggies, and never getting soggy. I highly recommend it – especially with lots of fresh spinach (it’s back in my garden already!), lemon and feta. And if you have juniors, pick up the salad bowl and bring it to the park with as many forks as there are people.
Orzo Salad with Spinach, Feta and Lemon
1 1/2 cups orzo (small rice-shaped pasta)
1 small bunch fresh spinach or half a bag of prewashed spinach
half a purple onion, finely chopped
1/2 – 1 cup crumbled feta
grated zest and juice of a lemon (about 3 Tbsp.)
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Tbsp. canola or olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook the orzo according to the package directions; drain well, running under cool water to cool it down, then dump into a bowl.
Thinly slice your spinach: tack a bunch of leaves, roll them up tightly and slice through the whole bunch – or just tear it in with your hands. The method you choose will likely depend on the salad’s final destination. Add the onion, feta and lemon zest.
Squeeze the lemon juice over the salad, and drizzle with the rice vinegar, oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat well. Taste it and adjust the seasonings if it needs it. Serve right away or refrigerate until you’re ready for it. Serves 4-8.