Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lemon Orzo with Spinach, Feta, Roasted Almonds

I can't get enough summertime orzo pasta salad. It's like most pasta salad- open for endless variation. Usually, throw in whatever you got handy.

This recipe is super simple, quick, and tasty. It can be made ahead of time, it can be thrown together in not much time at all. It can stay at home on the counter, just chillin, or it can be taken for a picnic. Orzo pasta salad is not demanding.

The pre-crumbled feta in the package is pretty good, as long as you get a decent brand. Of course you can buy a brick and crumble it yourself, but for feta I usually don't. Parmigiano-Reggiano, now you know that shit is always shaved off the wedge, never in a green can.

Macerating the onion and garlic for a few minutes will mellow the sharp, pungent flavor.

The amounts below will make plenty, which will be a good thing- leftover, to me, does not sound unwanted, forgotten about, or unappealing. It sounds like something that was so good it should be enjoyed again, and many foods taste best the second or third day- like this.

Lemon Orzo with Spinach, Roasted Almonds and Feta
1 lb. orzo
2 large bunches spinach or 1 5 oz. package baby spinach, washed
4 TB EVOO
2 lemons juiced, zest from 1
1 large clove garlic, very fine mince
4 TB red onion, very fine mince
2/3 C feta cheese, crumbled
3/4 C whole almonds
freshly cracked black pepper

Cook the orzo in lightly salted water about 7-8 minutes, until tender. Drain and add back to the pot, fold in spinach, a few handfuls at a time, and mix up for a bit to wilt the spinach in the hot pasta. Set aside and let cool, or it can be turned out into a large pan to expose surface area and thus facilitate cooling, or stash in the freezer quick if you are Russian.

Add the onion and garlic to the lemon zest and juice. Season with black pepper, let sit for 10 minutes. During this time-roast the almonds at 350F for about 10 minutes- shaking the sheet pan every 2-3 minutes, until nicely toasted. Watch closely towards the end!

Add the lemon juice/zest onion and garlic mixture and EVOO, stir well to coat. Fold in the feta and roasted almonds, then give a taste- maybe some fresh pepper, maybe a bit of salt- the feta might bring enough saltiness on its own.

This can be served slightly warm upon finishing, or cold, right out the fridge- but is probably best enjoyed room temp, allowing the flavors to blend for a few hours on the counter.

This dish was intended to be eaten at another location, so you see the feta was left out and the nuts were toasted at the last minute to be enjoyed their peak. Kali orexi!

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