I don’t cook with olives or feta cheese very often, because I try to stick to a low sodium diet, but when I received a can of olives from Spain as a souvenir, I knew that I had to do them justice. In my opinion, this orzo salad was the perfect way to use them, because the olives add the perfect saltiness and tanginess to the otherwise bland pasta. The great thing about this salad is that it can be served cold or at room temperature and during any season.
Orzo Salad with Olives and Feta
makes 4 to 6 servings
2 cups orzo pasta
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3/4 cup finely diced celery
heaping 1/2 cup feta cheese, broken into chunks
heaping 1/4 cup or more to taste high quality olives (Note: It is important that you use very high quality olives for this dish.)
brine from the jar of olives, to taste
heaping 1/4 cup finely diced red onions
1 garlic clove, finely minced
small handful of fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
handful of baby spinach leaves (optional)
freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil over high heat. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the olives and place them in a large heatproof bowl. Add the garlic, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil to the olives and stir to mix. Cook the orzo in the boiling water until al dente, as per the instructions on the packaging. Drain the pasta well and immediately add it to the large heatproof bowl. Toss gently until well combined. Add the brine from the jar of olives to taste, one tablespoon at a time, mixing the pasta well in between additions. Add salt and pepper to taste, keeping in mind that the feta cheese will add saltiness to the salad. Then toss in the celery, red onions, feta, parsley, and spinach (if using). Refrigerate over night and serve cold or at room temperature.