First, of all—I would like to say this recipe is not exactly quick. It involves a lot of vegetable chopping (which I personally find kind of therapeutic). However, the salad lasts a long time in the fridge and makes a great lunch all week long. It also makes a great dinner—I prefer to add a grilled chicken breast or some sort of protein in that case. Another reason I love it—you can add just about any veggie you would like. If you have something you would really like to use—it will probably taste great in this dish! My mom gave me this recipe--and I am not sure where she found it.
1 Small Eggplant (cut into cubes)
1 Red Bell Pepper (chopped)
1 Yellow Bell Paper (chopped)
1 Red Onion (chopped)
4 scallions (minced)
8 oz orzo (I found whole wheat orzo, but that can be challenging)
6-8 oz crumbled fat free feta cheese
15-20 basil leaves (coarsely chopped)
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
1 zucchini (chopped)
1 summer squash (chopped
1 can of quartered artichokes
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice (about three small lemons)
Salt & Pepper to taste
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the meantime--chop up the eggplant and put it a baking pan tossed with a little EVOO, salt and pepper. Back for 45 minutes. (I also cooked the optional zucchini & summer squash at this point)
2) In a 2 qt pot, bring salted water to a boil, add the orzo and cook 7-9 minutes or until it is "al dente." Drain excess water and rinse the orzo in cool water.
3) Chop up bell peppers and red onion. Set aside. (I added the optional artichokes at this stage)
4) Mix dressing. Set aside.
4) In a large bowl, combine the roasted eggplant, chopped veggies, and orzo and dressing. Set aside and bring to room temperature.
5) Toast the pine nuts in a small pan, over medium heat, stirring constantly. The pine nuts will be a golden brown when done.
5) Add the pine nuts, chopped basil, minced scallions and feta to the veggies and orzo. You're done!
This salad can be served at room temperature, which makes it great for lunch when you have to be at work or school. However, make sure to refrigerate any leftovers.
-If you choose to add veggies that are optional--as a rule of thumb, if you like the veggie raw, then add them at step 3. If you like the veggie cooked, add it to step 1, keeping in mind some veggies take more or less time to cook.
-Sometimes I skip the pine nuts because they can be expensive. (They are cheapest at Trader Joe's).
-If feta cheese is a little strong for you, try crumbled goat cheese.
-If you do not want to use pasta--try brown rice. I am sure it would be just as good!