Super Lemony Orzo with Feta

August 8, 2011

We had a vacation trip to the North Fork of Long Island planned many months ago for this week. It just happened to all work out that it would follow getting married this week-end, so it is part honeymoon, as well. We are staying at one of our favorite homes in the world. It has been in our friend Cara’s family for close to a hundred years, and is right on Peconic Bay. It is a magical place, with the beach right out the front door, and a wrap around porch to lounge the day away. I don’t think our pooch Bailey has stopped smiling since we got here. She is in heaven running off leash in the sand, and keeping a watchful eye over TPS when he goes for a swim.

It will be a week of napping, reading, and tons of cooking. The produce on Long Island is extraordinary, and August things are at their most bountiful. Farm stands are everywhere, which you all know we love to frequent. Last night, we had our friend Ellen, who is the Editor at Harper’s Magazine, and her husband Glen, who is an artist, as well as our friend Cara over for a Sunday night supper. We have a long standing tradition with Cara of having lobster, so that part was a given. Ellen & Glen were bringing their niece, who we had never met, and is a vegetarian, so lobster was not in the cards for her. We had picked up corn, and the heirloom tomatoes were looking amazing, so we knew she could dine on that. But we wanted to offer her something in place of the lobster. That is where my super lemony orzo pasta comes in. It really is a recipe that can be tweaked to add or subtract things, and make it the star of the meal, or just a simple side dish. Last night, it was a bit of both. Here it is.

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.