But even if you're just celebrating with family, I have an idea for a pasta salad with a little different twist that's sure to create "fireworks" in your mouth. OK, the fireworks will come from flavor - not heat - but you know what I mean!
We had a couple of suppertime picnics in the field, but our noon meals were at the dining room table since Randy was in fields close to the house.
Instead of the usual pasta twist or elbow, the base of this salad is orzo pasta. With add-ins like toasted almonds and feta cheese and a tangy olive oil-lemon dressing, it's a satisfying summer salad to add to your table - whether it's 4th of July, a harvest meal or just a regular old day.
Orzo Pasta Salad
Adapted from Carlsbad Cravings blog
16 oz. uncooked orzo pasta
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 tsp EACH salt and pepper
1/2 onion, chopped
2 ears grilled corn, cut off the cob (grilling optional but recommended)
1 English cucumber, sliced and cubed
2 cups (1 pint) cherry tomatoes, halved
1 15 oz. can garbanzo (chickpeas) beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 TBS EACH fresh dill parsley and oregano OR 1 tsp EACH dried
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp EACH garlic powder, salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Make dressing, whisking together all the ingredients in a small bowl or by adding to a lidded jar and shaking. Refrigerate until ready to use.
In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter with olive oil over medium-low heat. Once melted, increase heat to medium-high and add orzo and onions. Sauté for 3-5 minutes, until onions are soft. Stir in chicken broth, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Simmer until orzo is al dente, 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently the last couple minutes of cooking so it doesn’t burn. Transfer to a large bowl to cool in the refrigerator while you finish chopping your veggies. Add all of the salad ingredients to the orzo followed by the dressing. Toss to coat. Taste and season with additional lemon juice or salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
- Vegetables: Can be chopped 24 hours in advance and stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator or added directly to the orzo pasta without the dressing.
- Orzo: Can be made 48 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Dressing: Can be made 72 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
If you use all of the dressing initially, your pasta may soak up all the dressing and will taste dry. You can "revive" it with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- My local grocery store doesn't carry many fresh herbs, and we don't grow them in our garden. I substituted a sprinkle of dried basil leaves. (If you use dried, DON'T use 1/2 cup. I really just used a sprinkle. There's a lot of flavor in the other ingredients.) I know the fresh would be better, but this was tasty, too! At this time of year, perhaps you can find some at a farmer's market or ask a generous gardening neighbor.
- I also can't get English cucumbers here, and our garden cucumbers aren't ready yet. Since the cucumber I had bought had large seeds, I scraped out the seed portion and chopped up the rest.
- I also didn't have corn on the cob, so I just used frozen corn. It didn't caramelize like fresh corn would, but it still added another texture to the finished dish.
- I did not use Kalamata olives (or any other olives). I served olives on the side for Randy and Eric. (There aren't many things I don't like, but olives are one of the few.)
- If your garden zucchini are as prolific as ours, you could also add some chopped fresh zucchini to the veggies used in the directions.
- The original recipe called for sliced almonds. I only had slivered, so we browned them in a little butter until they were toasty. I also served the almonds on the side for the non-nut eaters in the group.
- You can use water and some chicken bouillon granules instead of the canned or boxed chicken broth. That's what I usually use.
- There are lots of additional recipe notes on Carlsbad Cravings, if you're interested in even more details from the recipe originator: https://carlsbadcravings.com/orzo-pasta-salad/