Lemony Greek Pasta Salad from Food52

Pasta salads are ideal for packing up for a picnic. Or to be more quotidian, for lunch at work. Either way, it's better to eat food you're looking forward to having--be it after a hike to the perfect picnic spot or after a morning staring at a computer. So why not make this Greek-inspired pasta salad? The fine folks at Food52 encourage you to make without tomatoes, and I encourage you to ignore that directive.

Intended to be a subtle accompaniment to salmon, roast chicken, or the like, this salad nixes the tomatoes and focuses on the cucumber and the dill, traditionally found in all walks of Greek Salad.  I am in the middle of being in love with this summer's cherry tomatoes. And I have never been accused of being subtle. So here we are. With tomatoes. You make your own decisions, I won't judge. But we both know you should put tomatoes in this salad.

The briny feta and olives are the perfect counter balance to the acidic and sweet tomatoes and the cool cucumbers. This salad will win you no points for originality, but I promise you, it will win you a sense of satisfaction while sitting on a picnic blanket or your desk. Or at your next potluck or even, yes, as a an accompaniment to salmon or chicken at your own dinner table. 

The only real problem with this salad is that I had only one glorious serving of it. Neither on a picnic or at work. You see, my mother-in-law mistook the container that I put it in (a washed out yogurt container) for her very own, so she took it with her on her trip back up the California coast. So she got to enjoy the seven other servings (I doubled it, too, because there was a long work week and a half in my future).  She said it was delightful. And from what I could tell from a Sunday afternoon pasta salad eating on my back deck, she was right.  


Lemony Greek Pasta Salad

Adapted from Mighty Salads and recipe here 

Serves 4

½ pound orzo pasta 
Zest of 1 lemon 
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard 
1 medium shallot, grated 
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
4 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped 
1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced 
2 medium cucumbers, cut in half lengthwise, seeded and sliced 
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

1. Cook the orzo in abundantly salted water according to package instructions or to your taste. Drain and transfer to a large salad bowl. 

2.  Meanwhile, make lemon-dill vinaigrette to dress the salad: combine lemon zest and juice, mustard, and grated shallot in a medium bowl. Whisk everything together with a few pinches of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking, then stir in the chopped dill. Taste and adjust as needed. 

3.  Pour the vinaigrette over the still-warm pasta and toss. Allow to cool to room temperature, then add the olives, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Fold in the crumbled feta cheese, adjust salt and pepper, and serve.


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