Orzo Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Spinach, and Feta

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This Orzo Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Spinach, and Feta is a light, fresh dish that is a delicious choice for a summer BBQ menu. While you can use jarred roasted red peppers, it’s so easy to roast them yourself and the taste and texture difference is remarkable. My very favorite feta cheese is Sunshine Feta from Little Qualicum Cheeseworks as it’s already lightly seasoned. Cooking the orzo in broth really ups the flavour of the pasta.

Ingredients

Orzo Salad:

2 cups orzo pasta
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 large red pepper, roasted and chopped,
(see note on how to roast red peppers) OR
1 cup jarred roasted red pepper, blotted dry and chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped baby spinach, stems removed
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup crumbled feta cheese,
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (heat them in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, tossing often until golden and watching carefully so they don’t burn)

Lemon Honey Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

Method

Roasting Red Peppers:

Remember, char is your friend, you want them blackened!  
Heat a gas grill to high or prepare a charcoal grill for direct heat. Place the peppers directly over the heat. No need to oil or season as you’re discarding the skin.  

Turn the peppers every 2 to 3 minutes until they are completely charred, about 10 minutes total.

Put the still-warm pepper(s) in a heatproof bowl and cover either with plastic wrap, aluminum foil, or a pot lid.

The skin will loosen as the pepper steams, and once it’s cooled down a bit, you can easily remove the skin, stem and seeds with your fingers.  Do this over a bowl as there’s some moisture that gathers inside the peppers as they cool.

The roasted peppers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer sealed in a ziplock bag for up to 6 months.

For the Lemon Honey Vinaigrette:

Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, and honey. Season to taste with a bit of salt and pepper. Set aside.

For the Orzo Salad:

Bring broth to a boil in a good sized saucepan or pasta pot. Add orzo and cook until tender according to package directions. Drain well in a fine mesh colander but do not rinse. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and toss with 1 or 2 teaspoons of the prepared dressing to prevent it from sticking. Let the pasta cool to room temperature. If making in advance, cover and refrigerate cooled orzo until ready to assemble salad.

Toss the cooled pasta with the roasted red peppers, spinach, basil, and green onions. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and stir to coat the ingredients with the dressing. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Sprinkle the feta and pine nuts over the top and toss lightly. Serve at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from  Valerie’s Kitchen