This Whole Wheat Orzo and Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta, Olives, and Herbs has all the flavors of summer! Use brown rice for a gluten-free version of this salad.
(For Friday Flashbacks, I feature past recipes that have been my favorites, and this Whole Wheat Orzo and Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta, Olives, and Herbs is one of my favorite salads with the flavors of summer. I make my version of this orzo and grilled vegetable salad with a lot of grilled vegetables, olives, Feta, and herbs and less orzo, for lower-carb version of this type of salad; enjoy!)
I've always been a huge fan of orzo, so I was thrilled when I discovered whole wheat orzo. I first tried it in a very tasty salad with tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and feta, and I've already made the salad featured in this post three times and gobbled it up each time. If you're not familiar with orzo, it's a tiny pasta shaped similar to rice but slightly bigger. It's often used in soups and pilafs, but it's also a perfect pasta salad ingredient because it lets the pasta take a supporting role and puts the spotlight on the other ingredients. Orzo is made with wheat, but for a gluten-free alternative I think brown rice would also be great in any salad that uses whole wheat orzo.
I loved orzo long before knew about the South Beach Diet, but I only discovered whole wheat orzo last year. In Salt Lake I can find both DeLallo Organic Whole Wheat Orzo and Rice Select Whole Wheat Orzo at Whole Foods. If any readers have seen whole wheat orzo in other stores, let us know in the comments where you've found it.
Cook the orzo until it's barely al dente (follow package directions for cooking time) and then drain and let cool.
Cut the zucchini and red bell peppers into fourths and brush with olive oil and Italian seasoning. (I used Penzeys Pasta Sprinkle, which has sweet basil, Turkish oregano, thyme, and garlic.)
Grill the vegetables on high until they are cooked, but still slightly crisp, about 10-15 minutes. Turn several times to get lots of grill marks. Let vegetables cool for a few minutes.
When the vegetables are cool, you should be able to pull the skins right off the red bell peppers (the skins are on the right.) Cut peppers and zucchini into bite-sized pieces.
Put the zucchini and peppers into a bowl large enough to hold all the salad, add about 1/3 of the dressing, and stir so the vegetables are all coated with dressing.
Let the vegetables marinate in the dressing while you slice the olives in half and crumble the Feta.
(Makes about 6 servings, adapted from a recipe by Pamela Anderson for Fine Cooking.)
1 cup whole wheat orzo, cooked according to package directions (or less if you want even lower carbs)
2 small zucchini
1 large red bell pepper
olive oil, for brushing vegetables
Italian seasoning or other dried herb seasoning (I used Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle)
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 T chopped fresh basil
2 T chopped fresh oregano
(or use 4 T chopped fresh herbs of your choice such as parsley, mint, thyme, or chives)
1 can black olives, drained and cut in half (6 oz. drained)
1/2 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Preheat grill to high. Cook orzo according to package directions, being careful not to overcook. Drain and let cool while you prep other ingredients.
Cut the zucchini and red bell pepper lengthwise into fourths and remove seeds and stem from pepper. Brush the vegetables on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with dried herb mix. Turn the grill down to medium-high, then grill vegetables until they are cooked, but still slightly crisp, about 10-15 minutes. I turned them several times so I had grill marks on all the sides. Remove vegetables and let them cool.
Thinly slice green onions and chop fresh herbs. Whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon, and dried oregano to make the dressing.
When vegetables are cool enough to handle easily, pull the skins off red peppers. (They should come off fairly easily, but no worries if some of the skin stays on. You can put the peppers in a bowl and cover it with cling-wrap to "steam" them if you want to be sure you get all the skin off, but I didn't have any trouble removing it without doing that.) Cut the zucchini and pepper into bite-sized pieces and put into a plastic bowl large enough to hold all the salad ingredients. Add about 1/3 of dressing and stir so all the vegetable pieces are coated with dressing.
Let the vegetables marinate while you drain olives, cut them into half, and crumble the feta. Add the cooked orzo, green onions, and herbs to the vegetables and add enough dressing to moisten all ingredients. (You may not need all the dressing.) Gently stir in the olives and crumbled feta.
Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled. This salad will stay good in the fridge for several days, but only if you're able to stop eating it!
South Beach / Low-Carb Suggestions:
This salad is loaded with low-glycemic ingredients, but to make it more suitable for phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet I used whole wheat orzo and decreased the amount of pasta in proportion to the other ingredients. To make the salad even lower in carbs, you could use even less orzo than I did.
More Salads You Could Make with Whole Wheat Orzo:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Whole Wheat Orzo Salad with Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Feta, and Herb Vinaigrette from Kalyn's Kitchen
Cherry Tomato Orzo Salad from Simply Recipes
Cold Curried Orzo Salad from The Perfect Pantry
Greek Orzo Salad from My Baking Addiction
Lemon Orzo Salad with Asparagus, Spinach, and Feta from Two Peas and Their Pod
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)