Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Lemon-Dill Orzo with Chickpeas and Artichokes


I have a friend who used to say in the summer that she had "broken up" with her oven. It's a mental image I've carried with me for years. I always picture this friend engaged in a painful split from Mr. Kenmore Oven. She tells him she can't take the heat. First he wheedles, then he sends flowers, makes promises--he even bakes cookies. He writes love letters to prove his emotional range. She resists, ignoring him each time she walks through the kitchen, flaunting her new-found relationship with no-cook meals in his shiny metal face. But we know where this cat-and-mouse game ends when fall rolls around. Every year she comes running back to his warmth--how could she stay away when he's SO HOT??--and the sizzling romance resumes. (Are you rolling your eyes at the oven puns yet?) 

Awful oven puns aside, I get what my friend means. The to-oven-or-not-to-oven question is a seesaw many of us who love to cook tend to ride as seasons change. It seems counterintuitive to heat a metal box to 450 degrees in the middle of your house when every other effort you make all day is to stay cool. So while June hasn't started off too terribly here in the Phoenix area (no temps soaring over 110--that's what we call moderate), I still feel the pull to keep the oven off and serve something closer to air-conditioned room temperature.

When we tried this vegetarian orzo salad last night, it hit the non-piping-hot spot. The recipe does, admittedly, use the stovetop to boil the orzo, but 15 minutes on the range beats a lasagna in the oven for an hour, and the end result is a refreshing blend of cool flavors perfect for a warm day. It's packed with:

  • Chickpeas for fiber and protein (see my ode to the nutritional value of chickpeas here)
  • Feta for a non-fatty cheese indulgence (the Pasta Salad Code of Ethics states that every pasta salad needs a cheese indulgence) 
  • Artichokes for veggie goodness including additional fiber and Vitamin C
  • Fresh dill, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil to add flavor without overdoing it on calories and fat (in keeping with the ideology of the Mediterranean diet).

Put them all together and you have a quick, light one-dish dinner or a hearty potluck side. So, sorry, Mr. Oven. Like my friend, I'm off for my annual summer fling without you. Or at least a few days' break...you know I still need you for cookies.



Lemon-Dill Orzo with Chickpeas and Artichokes
(Adapted from Cooking Light)

Ingredients:

1 1/4 c. uncooked orzo
1/2 c. sliced green onions
3/4 c. crumbled feta cheese
1 14-oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
5 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
2 15-oz. cans chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans), drained
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp. cold water
scant 3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. minced garlic 

Directions:

1. Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

2. In a large bowl, combine cooled, rinsed orzo, green onions, feta, artichoke hearts, dill, and chickpeas.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, water, salt, and garlic. Drizzle over pasta mixture and toss gently to coat.

Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Serves 5-6 as a main dish, 8-10 as a side dish.

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