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Cheater, Cheater, Greek Orzo Salad Eater

Greek Orzo Salad

One of the reasons for my starting this blog was to share recipes using ingredients from my own garden. The downside of using seasonal ingredients is that sometimes my desire to make a certain dish is not in sync with my garden’s production schedule. This necessitates cheating and using store-bought veggies instead, which was the case with the Greek Orzo Salad that I made for the Fourth of July shindig that we had last night. I was looking for something that could feed an undetermined number of people, go well with burgers and hot dogs, and be okay sitting out for a while. So, despite its ethnic name and ingredients, I found this to be the perfect side dish to help celebrate our country’s birthday. A trip to Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace took care of the produce this time around. I plan to make this again when our own cukes and tomatoes are ready, but I’m posting the recipe now, because people asked about it and eagerly took home almost all the leftovers –I made a bit much!

There are several variations on this recipe out there, so modify it however you see fit. I began with one that I found on a couple of years back and put my own little spin on it. Here is the link to the original, and below is how I tweaked it to my own taste in an attempt to feed possibly 15-20 people:



• 2 cups uncooked orzo

• 3 tbsp butter or margarine

• 29 oz water

• 2 (6.5 oz) jars marinated artichoke hearts

• 1 tomato, seeded and chopped

• 2 cucumbers, seeded and chopped

• ½ large red onion, chopped

• 1 ½ cups feta cheese

• 1 (2 oz) can black olives, drained

• ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

• Juice of ½ lemon

• ½ tsp dried oregano

• Approx. 3 oz Italian or Greek salad dressing (I had some left over from lunch at a local pizzeria and decided to toss it in)


1. Melt butter or margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in orzo and sauté until lightly browned.

2. Stir in water and bring to a boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer until orzo is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Take off heat, fluff with a fork, and set aside until mostly cooled.

3. Drain and chop artichoke hearts, reserving marinade.

4. In a large bowl, combine artichokes, tomato, cucumber, onion, feta, olives, parsley and lemon juice. When orzo has cooled, add it to the mixture and toss everything together.

5. Chill for at least an hour in the refrigerator.

6. Just before serving, drizzle about 3 oz of artichoke marinade and the Italian or Greek dressing over salad and toss again.


The Side Dish Sidekick / Orzo with Parmesan and Basil

As I write this, it is that time of day again:  time to come up with a side dish for dinner.  Bill is the main cook in our household and a proud carnivore.  He has a knack for experimenting and putting flavors together, and is one of those who likes to whip up a breakfast of omelets, bacon and hash browns.  I love big breakfasts, but I am also good with just cereal.  Before he came along, my only actual cooking consisted of three things: scrambled eggs, spaghetti (although I once set water on fire making it), and grilled cheese sandwiches.  I grew up in a house with an electric stove, but after college I lived in an apartment with a gas stove. I never used it once because I was convinced that it would explode.  That’s when I learned how to make grilled cheese sandwiches with an iron.  On an ironing board.

Being an animal lover, I also don’t like to touch raw meat or even think about it.  Ground beef and boneless chicken breasts are my limit, and even then, I have to go into a deep state of denial about what it actually is.  I would be a vegetarian, but I have an unfortunate tendency toward anemia and cheeseburgers.   So, nowadays when we make dinner, Bill usually grills or otherwise prepares the meat, and I am his Side Dish Sidekick.  This is why I enjoy the garden so much:  I use whatever is abundant in the garden and incorporate it with other ingredients we have on hand.  I have even learned to enjoy experimenting in the kitchen.

Since not much is ready to pick yet, I have been building my part of the menu around our fresh garden herbs. Below is the link to what has been my go-to side dish for a few years now.  It is as simple as making a boxed noodle or rice dish, but without the powdery, MSG-laden flavor packets.  I have been substituting I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter for the real butter, and sometimes I use vegetable stock in place of the chicken broth. Admittedly, it is not something I can make with an iron, but fortunately I have made my peace with the gas stove.