Thursday, June 5, 2014

Summer, Summer, Summertime--Summer Salad Recipe

I live where winter begins early.  Incredibly early.  As in a blizzard-the-first-week-of-October early. 

I also live where spring starts late.  Incredibly late.  As in still-snowing-at-the-end-of-April late. 

If you want to see what spring fever really looks like, come to the Black Hills in May when the sun shines for three days straight and the temperature actually hits forty-five all three days.  People are in their shorts and flip flops, ready for summer…NOW!

I was particularly ready for the warmer temperatures of spring and summer this year, and though Mother Nature wasn’t moving as fast in that direction as I wanted her, I decided to speed things along by cooking as if it was summer:  more grilling, summer veggies, and light bites.  I dug through my recipes and found the ones that would make summer appear on my plate, and none did this more so than an orzo salad recipe from my incredibly great chef friend, Kirsten.  The dill (fresh if you can get your hands on it) and lemon in this recipe are both flavorful and zesty while being light and refreshing…just like summer.  I made this salad for my lunch for three weeks in a row (did I mention I had spring fever?), and I enjoyed it more each week as I perfected the recipe with the amounts and ingredients I preferred.  Here it is:  summer on your plate!

Summer Dill Orzo Salad

1 pound orzo pasta
3 tbsp. lemon juice
2 ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
zest of one lemon
2 tbsp. finely (extremely fine) chopped onion (green onion or shallots will also work)
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
4 tbsp. fresh dill or 2 tsp. dried dill weed
¼ cup chopped, pitted Kalamata olives
2 medium cucumbers: peeled, seeded, and chopped
2 large carrots:  peeled and chopped
6 oz. feta cheese crumbles

1. Cook the orzo according to package instructions using ½ tsp. salt in the water. Cook until al dente.
2. In a separate bowl, combine lemon juice, zest, mustard, and onion. Add a few pinches of salt. Then whisk in olive oil and dill.
3. In a large bowl, pour lemon-dill dressing over still-warm pasta. Add cucumbers, olives, and carrots. Stir well. Refrigerate until chilled before serving.
4. Sprinkle feta over the top of salad just before serving. 

Serve as a side to grilled steak, pork chops, or chicken (when I served it as supper, I grilled marinated chicken skewers as the protein ) or add chunks of grilled chicken to the salad and have as a meal itself (which is what I did for my lunch for three weeks).

I served with Erath Pinot Gris from Oregon (not with my lunch, but when I fixed this for supper one evening before taking it for lunch).  However, other Pinot Gris/Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc wines would be a nice compliment pairing with the acid of the lemon juice and zest.  For a contrast pairing, try a Riesling or Gewürztraminer, any sweetness level.

If you want summer on your plate and in your glass, this recipe is waiting to be prepared.  It took me through the “dark” days when I was beginning to suspect Mother Nature wasn’t going to give us a summer at all.  But I never should have doubted her.  As I sit on my patio enjoying my summery meals and wines, I forgive her for her shenanigans with our wintery weather this year.  As she lets the sun shine on me, I love her again…at least until the first snow storm of October!