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Once Again, Super Lemony Orzo with Feta

For this Wine & Dine Wednesday I thought I would look back on an old favorite, Super Lemony Orzo with Feta. I first wrote about this in August of 2011, when we spent the week on the North Fork of Long Island after we got married in Nyack, New York. The recipe made it into my book too, but it has been several years since I have made it. This week-end TPS requested it. It was like visiting an old friend, which I think tried & true recipes often feel like. Below is part of the post I wrote back then. Only thing different, I used the zest of 5 lemons instead of two, so it was even more lemony. Enjoy!

I make the vinaigrette first. Combine the zest of 2 lemons with a cup of fresh squeezed lemon juice (fresh is the only way to go on this, as it is such a major component of the dish) and a cup of the best olive oil you have (like the fresh lemon juice, using top notch extra virgin olive oil is key, because these 2 ingredients really make this sing) along with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Whisk all together and set aside. Boil a large pot of salted water. Cook 16 ounces of orzo pasta till it is al dente. Again, al dente is key. Once done, drain and immediately put the pasta into a large bowl. While pasta is still hot, add the lemon & olive oil mixture. With a fork, fluff till all the liquid is incorporated into the pasta. Side note-this is the perfect time to have a few bites. Let the pasta sit to cool, and absorb all of that lemony goodness. It is that easy.

Once the pasta has cooled, I add the feta. I usually like to cube a good amount of Greek feta, but the humidity last night was crazy off the charts, it started to break apart as I unwrapped the cheese, so I just crumbled it in. Like I said earlier, this pasta is great for adding or subtracting things. Since our guest was a vegetarian, I added edamame so she would get a bit more protein, in addition to the feta. I also like to thinly slice a lemon, and add those to the dish. This pasta works great next to chicken or fish, and gets better with age, so is still yummy a few days after you make it.



 

 

Feta Orzo with Roasted Chicken & Cauliflower, Capers and Green Olives

Often a satisfying meal can be pulled together from many things already had in your pantry and/or fridge. Such was the case with this lunch at WestWard yesterday. We had our friend Adrienne coming over and we knew we just wanted to sit and chat with the fire going, so I wanted to make something in a bowl that we could easily eat while sitting on the sofa talking away. We had a box of orzo pasta, green olives and a head of cauliflower. TPS made a quick run for a few other things, and lunch was in the works.

Put on a large pot of water to boil, add a tablespoon of salt once it begins to boil. Pre-heat oven to 400 while you begin prepping things. He picked up two chicken breasts with the skin on and the bone in. Skinless, boneless chicken breasts would work great for this too. On a sheet pan add the chicken breasts and coat liberally with extra virgin olive oil, salt & pepper. Get into that hot oven. Check the internal temp of the meat with a meat thermometer at 45 minutes. You want it to be 160. While that is cooking away put an entire box of orzo in the boiling water and cook to the time instructions on the box. Once done, drain, put in a large bowl, salt the pasta, add pepper, give a good glug of olive oil, and add the juice of one lemon, stir. Break up half the feta into the orzo while the pasta is still warm. Stir again. Then let sit while everything else cooks away. This is a room temp meal, so no need to worry. 

While the chicken cooks away, cut up a whole head of cauliflower. Break up the florets so they are quite small. Think less than bite sized. Add all to another sheet pan, add a good amount of olive oil, salt & pepper. Mix all around until coated. Then cut up a handful of pitted green olives, adding that to the mix. To that add a generous spoonful of capers. Mix all around and add to the hot oven where the chicken is cooking away. Stir several times in the cooking process. Take out when the cauliflower has started to brown a bit. Add the entire contents, oil and all to the bowl of orzo and feta. All the extra olive oil from this and the chicken help coat the orzo, add a ton of flavor, and create a bit of a sauce when melded with the lemon juice. Almost there!

When the chicken is done, take out of the oven, cover with aluminum foil and let it sit for 10 minutes to rest. Once ready, either cut up or pull the meat from the bone and add all to the excitedly awaiting bowl of orzo/feta/cauliflower/green olives/caper goodness. I took the skin off and did not add to the mixture, but by all means, do if you would like. Any juices that have formed on the pan with the chicken for sure add to the pasta. We want every bit of flavor. Mix up everything now that the chicken has been added. Now add the other half of the feta and another bit of pepper. Stir. Lastly, add the juice of another lemon. Stir. Take a taste. Add one final bit of salt if you think it is needed. Lunch is served.