This easy Chickpea and Orzo Salad is bursting with Mediterranean flavor- olives, feta, sun dried tomatoes, lemon, and garlic- combined with an awesome crunch from toasted almonds. It’s healthy because it’s packed with fiber, nutrients, and green veggies. It’s the perfect side for Easter dinner, to take to a potluck or picnic, or for a light meal.
I celebrated my 32nd birthday a few weeks ago. My sister and her boyfriend got me two BEAUTIFUL new cookbooks from America’s Test Kitchen- they certainly know the way to this food blogger’s heart! One of them, The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook, has made me super motivated to eat more Mediterranean food. This recipe is inspired by a few of the orzo recipes in the book.
The Mediterranean diet has, for years, been touted by nutritionists as the most healthy diet out there. It’s high in whole grains, vegetables, legumes, and healthy oils. This recipe has all of the above. It’s super filling and satisfying but also light tasting and doesn’t weigh you down.
With Easter coming up, I wanted to give you a recipe for something delicious that you could make as a side. This is a perfect meal to make in advance, since ideally it needs to be served cold or at room temperature, and the flavors marry together and improve the longer it sits.
I think this dish would be wonderful alongside grilled shrimp or chicken (the Mediterranean diet also is big on seafood and lean meats), or even lamb skewers (oh gosh – lamb – my favorite!). But there is plenty in this salad to make it hearty enough for a light meal at lunch or dinner. It would be the perfect thing to serve on a busy weeknight if you make it in advance on the weekend.
It may not look like it, but this salad has two packed cups of leafy greens. I used a combination of baby arugula and spinach… mostly because they didn’t have arugula alone at the store today. The greens are added to the hot pasta before it cools, which wilts them. This is one of my favorite way to eat greens- they are only slightly cooked, which retains a lot of their nutrients, but they don’t have as much of that harsh, bitter taste that raw greens often have. It makes it easy to eat a lot of them in one sitting!
One quick tip for this, and all, pasta salads: allow the pasta to cool before tossing it with the dressing. It doesn’t have to be COLD, but it shouldn’t be steaming hot. I let my orzo cool for about ten minutes before mixing the whole thing together. Otherwise, the dressing can be absorbed by the pasta and the dish can dry out. In the case of this recipe, it shouldn’t be hot enough to melt the feta cheese.
And if you’re looking for an awesome new cookbook to add to your collection, I definitely recommend The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen!
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some leftovers to attend to!
Mediterranean Chickpea and Orzo Salad
- 1 cup whole wheat orzo
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 2 cups packed baby arugula spinach, or a combination or both, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil divided, plus more for serving
- juice of one lemon about 2 tablespoons
- 2 cloves garlic minced (or one large clove)
- 1 15.5 oz. can chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 4 oz. feta cheese chopped or crumbled
- 1 cup Kalamata olives pitted and halved
- 1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 cup slivered almonds toasted
- Cook orzo in boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt until al dente.
- Drain and return to pot, and stir with 1 tablespoon olive oil and greens. Allow greens to wilt from the heat of the pasta, stirring occasionally. Allow mixture to cool for at least ten minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, garlic, and lemon juice to make the dressing.
- In a large bowl, mix together remaining ingredients, cooled orzo mixture, and dressing.
- If you have time, allow salad to sit for at least thirty minutes (or overnight) in the fridge before serving to allow flavors to marry.
- Serve drizzled with extra olive oil.