Sunday, April 22, 2012

Recipe for Whole Wheat Orzo Salad with Kale, Chickpeas, Lemon, and Feta

Whole Wheat Orzo Salad with Kale, Chickpeas, Lemon, and Feta
A delicious healthful salad with whole wheat orzo, kale, chickpeas, lemon, and Feta.  You could use brown rice or quinoa for a gluten-free version of this tasty salad.

A few years ago I discovered 100% Whole Wheat Orzo Pasta, and I've used it to make a few tasty pasta salads since then.  If you're not familiar with it, orzo is a type of pasta that's shaped like large grains of rice, and if you don't want to bother finding the whole wheat orzo or for a gluten-free version of this salad, cooked brown rice would make a fine substitute.  Of course it won't surprise anyone that I took a fantastic-sounding salad with spinach and switched out the spinach for kale.  I used regular curly kale so we trimmed it and wilted the kale for a minute, but if you had Earthbound Farm Ready-to-use Organic Mixed Baby Kales you could just give the kale a few rough chops and throw it in the salad.  We also added some cumin into the dressing for this salad, which gave it a bit of a Mediterranean flavor.  No matter what version of this salad you end up with, we thought this delightful combination of flavors was a perfect meatless meal.

This is my weekly post in honor of Meatless Mondays, and as usual I'm posting it on Sunday in case anyone wants to try the recipe tomorrow.  This is also the second recipe I've tried from Spilling the Beans: Cooking and Baking with Beans and Grains Everyday, written by my blogging friend Julie (from Dinner with Julie).  I am loving this book, which is a great resource for anyone who likes to cook with dried beans.  (You can find more meatless recipes by using the label Meatless Monday or checking Vegetarian Recipes in the recipe index, and I'm also doing a meatless slow cooker recipe each Monday on Slow Cooker from Scratch.  For more Meatless Monday ideas from other bloggers, check Meatless Monday at BlogHer, where I write a weekly post spotlighting one of the fabulous meatless recipe ideas I find around the web.)

Cook the orzo in boiling salted water and then drain well and let it cool.  (Be sure to follow package directions for cooking time and don't overcook!)

We used a whole bunch of curly kale which was four cups of packed kale after it was trimmed.  You could definitely get by with a little less.

For regular kale, heat a tiny bit of oil in a hot pan, add the kale, and wilt it for a minute or two.  (If you're using Earthbound Farm Ready-to-use Organic Mixed Baby Kales, just chop it up and use it raw.)

Drain a can of garbanzo beans, rinse well with cold water, and let them drain.

Finely chop half of a red onion.

Mix together the lemon zest and juice, white balsamic vinegar, ground cumin, salt, and pepper and then whisk in the olive oil to make the dressing.  (This might be more dressing than you need, but it's delicious on cooked vegetables or green salad.)

I used 3/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese.

I meant to take a picture of the orzo, kale, garbanzos, and red onion mixed together with the dressing before I gently mixed in the Feta, but you will have to use your imagination for that step!  (Be careful to mix this gently so you don't end up with mush!)  Serve right away.

Whole Wheat Orzo Salad with Kale, Chickpeas, Lemon, and Feta
(Makes 4 generous servings, recipe adapted from Spilling the Beans: Cooking and Baking with Beans and Grains Everyday.)

Salad Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat orzo, cooked according to package directions and drained well
salt for pasta cooking water
4 cups fresh kale, chopped (about 4-5 oz. kale leaves)
1 tsp. olive oil, for pan used to wilt the kale
1 can (15.5 oz.) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained well
1/2 small red onion, finely diced
3/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese

Dressing Ingredients:
zest and juice of one large lemon (about 1 T zest and 3 T juice)
2 T white balsamic vinegar (or substitute any type of mild white vinegar)
1 tsp. ground cumin
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Bring a medium-sized pot of water to a boil, add several generous pinches of salt and cook the orzo according to package directions, being careful not to overcook.  Drain into a fine-mesh colander and let the orzo cool while you prep the other directions.

If using a bunch of curly kale, cut the kale away from the stalks and coarsely chop.  (If needed, wash kale with a salad spinner and spin dry.)  Heat the tsp. of olive oil in a large heavy frying pan over medium high heat, add the kale all at once and turn over until it wilts, not more than 1-2 minutes.  Immediately put the kale in a bowl large enough to hold all the salad ingredients.  (If you're using Earthbound Farm Ready-to-use Organic Mixed Baby Kales, it can just be coarsely chopped and used in the salad without wilting.)

Drain the garbanzo beans into a colander placed in the sink, rinse well with cold water until no more foam appears, and let beans drain  until they are quite dry.  (Blot with paper towels if needed.)  Finely chop half a red onion, and crumble enough Feta to make 3/4 cup.

Mix together the lemon juice, lemon zest, white balsamic vinegar, cumin, salt, and pepper, and then whisk in the olive oil to make the dressing. 

When the orzo has cooled, add it to the bowl with the wilted kale.  Add the garbanzo beans and finely  finely diced red onion and gently mix to combine.  Add dressing a few tablespoons at a time and gently stir until all the ingredients are well-coated with dressing.  (You probably won't need all the dressing.)  Gently stir in the crumbled Feta and serve.

This did not keep especially well overnight in the refrigerator.  If the recipe makes more than you can use at one time, I recommend only wilting part of the kale and mixing up as much of the salad as you can eat at that time.  Then store the cooked orzo, drained garbanzos, chopped onion, crumbled feta, and extra dressing separately. When you want to make the second salad, wilt the rest of the kale and mix ingredients together. 

South Beach Suggestions:
100% Whole Wheat Orzo Pasta is a great product for phase 2 or 3 of the South Beach Diet.  I made this low-glycemic salad more diet friendly by using more kale in proportion to the amount of pasta and reducing the amount of cheese.

Ten More Tasty Salad Ideas with Orzo:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.  You can substitute whole wheat orzo in salads calling for regular orzo.)
Whole Wheat Orzo and Grilled Vegetable Salad with Feta, Olives, and Herbs from Kalyn's Kitchen
Whole Wheat Orzo Salad with Tomatoes, Kalamata Olives, Feta, and Herbs from Kalyn's Kitchen
Spinach and Orzo Salad from Simply Recipes
Lemon Orzo Salad with Asparagus and Tomatoes from A Big Mouthful
Greek Orzo Salad from My Baking Addiction
Lemon Orzo Salad with Asparagus, Spinach, and Feta from Two Peas and Their Pod
Orzo Salad from Real Mom Kitchen
Whole Wheat Greek Orzo Salad from Pinch My Salt
Greek Orzo Salad from Macheesmo
Tuna, Chickpea, and Orzo Salad from My Colombian Recipes
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.) counter customizable free hit
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More to Chew On:


  1. I've got to find that Baby Kale - I'm not sure it's offered on the East Coast yet. I've also had trouble finding whole wheat orzo - I've been completely rationing my last purchase. I'm going to have to find some good sources online. Great recipe!

  2. Thanks TW! I buy the whole wheat orzo at Whole Foods, but they stopped carrying it for a while and I was ina panic! I still can't convince my favorite market to get the baby kale, but there is one store by my house that has it. Both are such great products!

  3. I love all these ingredients--this looks like a fabulous salad.

  4. Thanks Sara! So many of my favorite ingredients as well.

  5. I don't think I've ever seen whole wheat orzo. I need to keep my eyes open for that! And I'm totally into chickpeas lately, so this sounds awesome!

  6. Deborah, I love the whole wheat orzo! (And chickpeas of course!)

  7. I'm glad to know I'm not the one absolutely obsessed with kale lately...and those Earthbound Farm mixes are definitely enabling me :P This sounds like one tasty salad, full of some of my favorite ingredients!

  8. Another great salad creation using two of my favorite ingredients: kale and feta! Hooray!! I agree, this would be great with a brown or wild rice. Once again, my husband would LOVE this. :)

  9. Joanne, I can't wait to make this again with their baby kale mix!

    Kelley, I think I need to invite your family to dinner so I can meet this guy who has the same tastebuds as I do!

  10. I think I need to add this to my dinner menu too! Love the combination of ingredients in this dish!

  11. Thanks Jennifer! It's definitely a keeper for me.

  12. What do you think about quinoa instead of the whole wheat orzo? I know you mentioned the brown rice but I was just thinking this may be interesting with quinoa. Hmmm... but this sounds so yummy! Thanks Kalyn!:-)

  13. Oh I do think this would be brilliant with quinoa; thanks for the idea!

  14. Kalyn, we enjoy that very same orzo too. Love the use of kale instead of spinach for a nice change :)

  15. I make a similar salad with spinach. I will have to try it with kale next time. Looks so good!

  16. Thanks Marla. I think the baby kale would be even better!

    Maria, both sound good to me!

  17. This looks delish - favorite ingredients. Would like to try with quinoa instead of orzo. Have you tried that? Any tips or suggestions?

  18. I don't think you need to do anything different; just cook the quinoa and substitute it for the orzo in equal amounts.

  19. FYI, if you start to make this, and then realize that the can you thought was garbanzo beans is really cannellini beans, and that the lemon you had was no good, it's really good with the beans and meyer lemon infused olive oil....

    I'm fairly new to your blog and to the south beach diet, and all your recipes are great. Thank you.

  20. Thanks Amy, and I'm glad to hear that worked out!

  21. I'm definitely going to try it again the original way. :)

  22. I have several orzo recipes I'd love to make but had no idea there was a whole wheat version out there! I'm on a hunt now :)

  23. I made this last night and it was fabulous! Even my picky eaters liked it, schazaam!
    I love the white balsamic addition.

  24. I had just prepared this salad for my lunch at work tomorrow. I have to say that I am surprised of how delicious it is, I was honestly expecting something less tasty. I will for sure include it in my favourite list of salads.Thank you much for the recipe!


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