What is it about roasted peppers? How does the humble bell pepper go from "Eh" to "Oh Yeah!" with just a quick turn in the oven? I'll never know, but this is a universal truth- You can take a ho-hum veggie that people seem to either love or hate (seriously, there's not a lot of in between) and turn it into gourmet perfection, all with the flick of an oven dial. Roasting peppers changes everything. The taste, the texture, the smell of your home... Peppers roasting in the oven is one of my favorite smells. I think it's because it reminds me of the Olive Garden and all those years I spent ordering Sausage Rustica, or penne with roasted peppers, thinly sliced onions, and smoked sausage, all cooked in spicy marinara. It was one of my favorite dishes.
Granted, there's no sliced onion, sausage, or marinara in this dish. But you wouldn't need it anyway. There's way too much other good stuff- diced cucumbers, fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, kalamata olives, feta, orzo. You know, just some of the best stuff on the planet.
Hummus is a favorite of ours to have for dinner. I usually either make a hummus plate the actual dinner (with pita slices and lots of toppings) or I make a Greek-inspired salad as a side to hummus and pita. This salad just happened to be a side one evening.
When I pulled out my trusty garlic vinaigrette from the fridge, the hubby made a face. "That's the dressing you are going to use?" He asked.
I know my hubby well. His distaste was for the store-bought salad dressing.
"Kind of. " I replied, annoyed. The plan had been to doctor the dressing (blending the vinaigrette with grated red onion and some liquid from the sun dried tomatoes) , and yet I was already getting pushback from the hubby, nose in the air at commercial dressing. Then I said what I always say when the hubby is nosing around the kitchen when I'm cooking, either stealing scraps or complaining about something store-bought- "Get out of my kitchen!"
Quite the team in the kitchen, we are :)
So, roasting peppers! It's super-easy. I cut my peppers in half and remove all the seeds and membranes. I then take my hand and flatten the peppers. I place the flattened halves on a cookie sheet and place them under the broiler. It usually take between 5-10 minutes, but the peppers will blacken. Once blistered, I put them in ziplock bags and leave them to steam for 20 minutes. When I come back, the skin peels right off, easy peasy. Chop those peppers, and that's all folks.
I actually got the idea for this salad from a salad I bought at Sam's Club (our Costco). I picked up an orzo salad there that was similar. It just didn't have nearly enough of the fresh produce. It contained the most stingy amount of feta, and a worthless, flavorless salad dressing. 'What potential!' I remember thinking when I ate that sad, sad salad. Potential no more, this salad blows that one out of the water.
Mediterranean lovers (and pasta salad lovers!), you will love this pasta salad. Perfect for lunch, dinner, picnics, barbecues, Labor Day get-togethers... :)
Happy Monday friends! Have a great week!
Ingredients (serves 6-8):
1 orange bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
8 oz dried orzo
1 cup cucumber, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/4 cup kalamata olives, halved
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
3 tbsp Garlic Vinaigrette (use homemade or store-bought. I used Garlic Expressions Classic Vinaigrette.)
2 tbsp red onion, grated
1 tbsp liquid from sun-dried tomatoes
handful fresh parsley, chopped
salt and pepper
1. Cut peppers in half. Remove seeds and membranes, discard. Flatten pepper halves with your hand. Place pepper halves on a cookie sheet. Turn oven to broil, place peppers under broiler. Broil for 5-10 minutes, until peppers are blistered and black. Place peppers in a ziplock bag, seal, and set aside.
2. Prepare the orzo according to cooking directions. Reserve 1/4 cup pasta water. Drain pasta, rinse thoroughly under cold water, and set aside.
3. After 15-20 minutes, remove peppers from ziplock bag. Skin should peel easily off peppers. Discard skins. Dice peppers, and set aside.
4. In a large salad bowl, combine cooked orzo (make sure orzo is cold!), diced peppers, and cucumber through feta cheese in large mixing bowl.
5. In a smaller bowl, combine vinaigrette, red onion, and sun-dried tomato liquid. Whisk to thoroughly combine. Drizzle dressing over large mixing bowl (you may not use all the dressing), toss to combine.
6. Add parsley to bowl, toss. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
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