This weekend we're kicking off America's final summer holiday: Labor Day. In lieu of traditional mayonnaise-laden and calorie-packed macaroni and potato salads, why not make something lighter, fresher and equally delicious?
This recipe, which I adapted from the NYT Cooking section, originally called for a whole pound of orzo. Online reviews said that a pound was way too much pasta and after making it, I agree totally. A half-pound of orzo is just right. You get less starch and more colorful vegetables in every bite.
Champ and I thought about adding chunks of chicken or white beans to make this a complete meal. But then we agreed that this salad stands on its own without embellishment. It's that good. I'm looking forward to leftovers for lunch today!
Note: the NYT recipe calls for 1/4 cup of olive oil but I cut it down to 1 Tbsp. to keep the WW Points level low. If you are not on a weight loss regimen, by all means add a bit more of the best extra virgin olive oil you have. California Olive Ranch is one of my favorite brands. It's reasonably priced and available at most supermarkets.
8 oz. orzo
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3 large red, yellow and/or orange bell peppers,
chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1 fresh thyme sprig
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
Lemon wedges for serving
Cook orzo in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente. Drain, saving 1/4 cup of pasta water. Allow to cool while preparing peppers.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onion, bell peppers and thyme and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken down and juices release, about 8 minutes. Add the reserved pasta water.
Transfer vegetable mixture to a large bowl to cool slightly. Add cooled orzo, lemon juice, basil and feta cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix well and garnish with more basil. Serve with lemon wedges. The more lemon, the better!