Summer-Fall Food

As September begins and we're just past the Labor Day weekend, our weather in Wisconsin starts to blend a little fall into these last days of summer. We have a day of 80° followed by one that can't reach 70°. We have sunshine mixed with those deep grey clouds of autumn. Our mostly green trees hide a leaf or ten that are beginning to change color already. And our menus start to bring back the stove … but just a little bit.

Before we tuck into warm corners of our homes and braise roasts until they are tender, many of us are still firing up the grill and looking for meals that speak of summer. And so it is with me and my family. We want to dig into summer's favorites while they are here, but cooler days do offer us a few more options. I might make a special sauce on the stove for that grilled chicken or boil pasta for salad instead of sticking strictly to what the garden provides. And so it happens with the delightful pasta salad I'm offering this time around.

Orzo is a small, rice-shaped pasta that holds up so well to rich dressings and fantastic summer vegetables. I like to boil mine in chicken broth to give it extra flavor. Of course, you can opt for using salted water, but why not try something a little different? I've actually started making a miso chicken broth this summer in my Instant Pot, so boiling in broth gives just about everything I make an extra flavor kick.

The vegetables in this salad were chosen for a good blend of flavors, colors, and textures, but you could try other items as well. Cucumbers come to mind, but do what works for you. I'd contemplated adding some black olives and then forgot. Maybe you will want to do the same … try olives, not forget them! Let me know what you think. Either way, welcome to the season of summer-fall food. The eating is good!

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad

  • 1 cup (dry) orzo pasta - regular or whole wheat
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1/2 orange or yellow bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • Zest and juice from one lemon
  • 1 tsp. stone-ground or dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the orzo in the chicken broth until al dente. Drain away any remaining liquid.

Slice the tomatoes in half. Chop the green onions and peppers. Chop the basil into strips and the feta into chunks.

Toss the drained pasta, vegetables, basil, and feta together.

Mix together the remaining ingredients in a resealable jar. Shake vigorously to combine. Drizzle the dressing on the salad and toss to blend. Add more dressing as needed. Chill until ready to serve.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 25 minutes

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