Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Citrus Kick

I love fresh citrus, especially in the summer when produce stands are bustling with business and cooking is really effortless. Summer lends itself to bright colorful meals and some of my favorite summer meals consist of nothing but garden picked goodness.

When my sweet Godmother, Angela, came to share her culinary skills for Natalie's gradutation party last month, she concocted a mouth watering citrus orzo salad that my taste buds fell in love with. The flavors were so simple, yet stunning and like any perfect outfit, had just the right pop of color to enhance the presentation. I was inspired to get zesty in the kitchen and create my own version of this light summer side dish. I have made it twice already and both MM and my family enjoyed every last bite!

Citrus Orzo

  • 1 lb. orzo pasta

  • 1 red bell pepper

  • 1 yellow bell pepper

  • 1 orange bell pepper

  • 1 small red onion

  • Handful of flat leaf parsley

  • Several fresh basil leaves

  • A few sprigs of fresh oregano

  • 1/4 cup crumbled, low fat feta cheese

  • 2 lemons

  • 1/3 cup estra virgin olive oil

  • salt & pepper to taste

Boil orzo and cook until al dente. Once cooked, strain and run cold water over so that it does not continue cooking. Once orzo is cold, transfer to a large bowl suitable for mixing. Chop all three peppers and the red onion into small pieces. Chop up the parsley, basil and oregano. Once the fresh ingredients are chopped, drop them into the bowl with the orzo pasta. To mix the "dressing", squeeze the juice from two whole lemons and combine with 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste and whisk until emulsified. Pour mixture over orzo and mix together with love. Once the dressing is fully incorporated, lightly toss in the feta. I only used 1/3 of a cup and I truly believe the small amount of feta is what makes it so delicate. This recipe is best served cold so stick in the fridge until you are ready to eat.

I love orzo because, as Meghan says, it's basically "guilt free" pasta and can be paired with anything! When MM and I enjoyed this as part of our very first meal in our Midwest kitchen, we had it with roasted tilapia and a mixed greens salad. I repeated this recipe for my family on the Fourth of July. We dined al fresco and accompanied the orzo with grilled citrus chicken (saving the Nina created marinade recipe for another post), corn on the cob and watermelon. Orzo can also act as a one dish meal. This recipe would be fantastic with a piece of grilled chicken breast cut into strips atop the orzo and voila!

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