Lemon-Orzo Pasta Salad….Doesn’t that sound like a dish just screaming for a picnic? Read on for a few out-of-the-box ideas that might inspire you to shake things up a bit.
Drew (my husband) is a terrific date-planner. Even now, we rarely do the traditional dinner-movie thing. Instead, we’re all about getting out and doing something active together. Our dates often consist of some activity away from the city, usually a hike or off-road adventure somewhere. Often, we involve our kids: “A family who plays together, stays together!” Our kids have adopted our lifestyle ideas, and on the weekends, they can be found rock climbing, hiking and camping out.
Back in college, Drew and his friends became pretty famous for their unusual, creative dates. Canoeing on a hidden, mountain pond was a favorite, as well as roasting s’mores over a campfire in the canyon. Probably the most creative was swimming in a pick-up truck. Say what?! He would line the bed of his truck with a plastic tarp and fill it with water. We, along with about 10 of our friends, would head to a park or somewhere very visible, and “swim” in the pool we made! Snorkels and masks made it even better. Oh, the stares and comments we received! (We know they were just jealous they hadn’t been invited to the party.) That was the ultimate in creativity.
Of course, on our adventurous dates, there’s always good food involved, usually a picnic packed in a cooler until we find the perfect spot for an outdoor meal. I highly recommend eating out in nature as often as you can! There’s nothing like it. Something magical happens to food when you eat it outside…Everything tastes better. No idea why that is, but it’s true! And Lemon-Orzo Pasta Salad is the ultimate easy side for such an event. Or even better, toss in a little chicken and call it dinner!
- 1 cup (dry) orzo pasta
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- 1 bunch green onions
- 1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/3 cup fresh basil
- 1/2 cup feta cheese
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- Zest and juice from one lemon
- 1 tsp. stone-ground or dijon mustard
- 1 tsp. honey
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Cook orzo in chicken broth until al dente. Drain.
- Slice tomatoes in half.
- Chop green onions and peppers.
- Toast pine nuts on stove until golden brown, 5-10 minutes.
- Cut strips of basil and chunks of feta.
- Toss together.
- Add all ingredients to blender, and mix until incorporated.
- Drizzle on salad and toss to blend. Add more dressing as needed.
*When toasting nuts, don't add any oil to the pan. The natural oils found in nuts keep them from sticking.
*This is a great salad to make ahead for a barbecue or picnic. Toss it with a little dressing, chill for several hours, and add more dressing as needed before serving. You could also add chicken for a heartier dish.