palate cleanser January 25, 2010


As you can see from my recent posts, it's been a sugar rush lately. The fun didn't stop with Sugar Coma, though. When I realized that so many people were in a tizzy about Helen's visit, I thought it might be a great opportunity for a handful of folks to have some one-on-one time with Helen in the kitchen and her famous macaron technique. I helped organize an intimate macaron workshop and it was an absolute blast. I'll be posting more about the workshop in my next post.

To make sure that the attendees ate something besides sugar over the course of the weekend, we put out a light lunch spread. I whipped up a dish of this and, not to toot my own horn, it was a smash hit. Quite the palate cleanser during a weekend of sweet indulgences. I've had several people ask/tweet/email me as to whether I'd be sharing this recipe on the blog…so I've happily obliged.

I love the combination of zucchini and mint and red chili flakes -it's a great contrast of flavors & textures. Add some lemon and a sprinkle of feta cheese and you'll swoon. The orzo couldn't be easier to prepare – the final dish comes together in about 15 minutes. You can adjust the ratios to your liking – more or less veg, amp up the red chili flakes, less or more acid. All up to you. Just don't skimp on the mint. It ties the whole dish together, really.

Minted Orzo Salad – serves 4 as a large side dish

  • 1 cups uncooked orzo
  • 1 tablespoon good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • juice and zest of one lemon
  • 1 small zucchini – cut into small dice
  • 1 small yellow squash – cut into small dice
  • pinch (1/8 teaspoon) dried red chili flakes
  • 1/4 cup mint – between 14-16 large mint leaves cut into a chiffonade
  • 2 ounces good quality feta cheese – crumbled. You could also use goat cheese or ricotta salata, if you'd like
  • small whole mint leaves for garnish, optional

– Cook orzo according to package directions – this should take between 7-9 minutes. When you pour the orzo into the boiling water, give it a quick stir to keep them from getting stuck together while cooking. When al dente, drain and rinse with cool water to stop cooking. Allow to drain completely.

– While orzo is cooking and draining, combine diced squash, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, red chili flakes, and chopped mint in a large mixing bowl. Add thoroughly drained & cooled orzo to the veggie mixture. Gently crumble your feta cheese into the orzo and stir carefully not to break up feta too much. Taste your salad at this point and add salt & pepper to taste – the salt level will depend on how salty your feta cheese is. 

– At this point, you can serve this dish room temperature. You can also chill it for an hour or up to overnight. Before serving, give your salad mixture a good but delicate stir and sprinkle your mint leaf garnish on top (if using).


Joe Jan 25, 2010 05:01 pm

that sounds like a great dish for when the weather warms up a bit!

Sean Jan 25, 2010 07:01 pm

This really is a palate cleanser! I love the slight kick from the chili flakes. Another RWT recipe added to bookmarks…

Mary Poppins in Heels Jan 25, 2010 07:01 pm

I’m just finding you and am loving your blog!

Maria Jan 26, 2010 06:01 am

I don’t use orzo enough. I can’t wait to try this salad.

Paula - bell'alimento Jan 26, 2010 07:01 am

*swoon* I LURVED this! I had to stop myself from eating the whole dish & embarassing myself! Did I mention I LURVED this? Thanks for posting the recipe Tami!

Debra Jan 27, 2010 08:01 am

Oh. My. I nearly licked my screen that looks so good. I can’t wait to get to the local farmer’s market on Saturday for mint, squash and cheese (keeping my fingers crossed that the goat cheese lady made feta this week). I’ve got Israeli couscous on hand – might have to try the recipe with it.

The Broke Socialite Jan 27, 2010 07:01 pm

This was likely one of the best dishes I’ve tasted in a while. So fresh, lively and (after all of that sugar) necessary. I might even try my hand at this one. Thanks for sharing.

Mowie Jan 28, 2010 10:01 am

Oh wow, that looks so fresh and healthy! I can imagine the textures are amazing together.

Sarka Feb 5, 2010 10:02 am

Another wonderful recipe! I just discovered your blog last week and I can’t stop coming back! :) Your photos and recipes are gorgeous! Thank you for sharing those with us!

theresa Feb 16, 2010 01:02 pm

Will be making this Thursday. Thanks for the fantastic blog!