We have had season tickets to Oregon State University football games for as long as I can remember. We have also hosted a pre-game Tailgate celebration for the same amount of time. Dick and I provide the main course and sides, and friends chip in with contributions of what they are in the mood to cook that week. All informal. All fun. And as many football fans can attest, the best part of any game may end up being the Tailgate party that precedes it.
In the spirit of Tailgating, I’d like to share this Orzo Feta salad with you. It’s easy to make, travels well, and loves to be served at room temperature so no worries about keeping it cold or hot. It’s also one of those recipes you can adapt any way you choose. All it requires is a little plotting and planning ahead of time.What’s in your refrigerator? What’s left in the garden? And do not forget: This is a Tailgate. If you bring it – they will eat it. Here’s what I found lurking about in the refrigerator, pantry, and/or garden before the last game, and so it became Orzo Salad.
And now for the pasta! Cook 1 pound of Orzo in boiling water until al dente and rinse well. Then toss with a little bit of Olive Oil so make sure the little guys don’t stick together. I made this in a 13×9 inch baking dish because I wanted to show all of the ingredients. A big old bowl is also just fine.
I like to start by adding all of the ingredients except the cheese. That way you get a good idea of the proportions you are working with. This would be a good time to add more of what you like best, or what you think could be used the balance your colors, textures, and flavors. One you have that all figured out, gently toss them all together with the Orzo.
Once that’s done, it’s time to add the cheese. I love Feta in this, but Fresh Mozzarella is also good. Don’t like either? Use whatever you like – or leave it out all together. This is now officially your salad, so have fun with it.
You’ll want to be careful with the cheese and toss it gently since it has a habit of breaking up into pieces so small you might not recognize what it is, thereby lessening the cheesiness component which happens to be one of my favorites.
All that’s left is the dressing. Again, this is a pretty flavorful salad on it’s own, so I usually just go with a light vinaigrette. You can also just toss with some really good Extra Virgin Olive Oil or a nice Herb Oil and be done with it. Add the dressing right before serving so it all doesn’t get absorbed into the pasta and you end up with something that’s just too dry. If you do add the dressing too early, just always remember to reserve some to add at the last minute. Crisis averted by quick thinking on your part!
Friends make the Tailgate, and I’d like to share some of ours with you. Here’s Nick, visiting from his home in Hawaii. He would soon wowing the crowd with his grilled Korean chicken.
Here you see Dick attempting to salvage some Grilled Pineapple after Nick incinerated the grill top with his Korean Chicken creation. For all the mess he makes, he’s one of the best cooks I know – so we turn him loose and worry about cleaning the grill later.
Around the table is always the most popular place to be with Andy, Craig, and Tim.
Adult beverages are always recommended. All guests, including Jenny, Patty and I can attest to that. Happy tailgating! xoxoxo
- 1 pound Orzo pasta, cooked, drained, rinsed, and tossed with a little olive oil.
- 1-2 cups Feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 cup thinly sliced small, sweet peppers
- 1 cup pitted and halved Kalamata olives
- ½ cup sliced green onion
- 1 cup slivered dried apricots
- 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
- 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 3 tablespoons Pineapple, Mango, or any other fruity White Balsamic Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Peach, Mango, Apricot or other lightly colored jam or jelly
- 1-2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Cool pasta to room temperature
- Toss peppers, peas, olives, green onion and dried apricots into pasta.
- Scatter Feta cheese over the top of the pasta and gently toss in.
- For the Vinaigrette: Whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, jam/jelly, Dijon mustard.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Toss dressing into salad right before serving.