A Greekish Orzo-Tomato Salad

A Greekish Orzo-Tomato Salad

And again, it started with the tomatoes. I came back from the farmer’s market this afternoon with six beauts: two each of yellow, regular ol’ red, and Cherokee purples. As usual, I had no idea what I planned to do with them, but I did know that tomorrow morning I’m getting on a scale at Weight Watchers for the first time in a month—our ongoing family stuff has mostly taken place on weekends, which meant foregoing my Saturday morning meetings. Dinner needed to be mostly carbs, and filling, and eaten on the early side. Yeah, I’ve got ways to manipulate the scale: Don’t eat much animal protein the day before (it takes longer to digest than carbs); don’t eat much past 9PM; stay away from salty foods (no Chinese food or pizza) the day or two before; drink a lot of water the day before and not so much the morning of; hit the gym before the meeting; and so forth. But I digress. We’re talking about dinner here, and the desire to come up with something healthy and different from all the dozens of tomato meals we’ve already eaten this summer. I’m not sure what made me do it, but I poked my head in the freezer, and lightning struck.

A package of kalamata-and-artichoke flavored chicken sausage!

Suddenly visions of Greek salads were floating in my head, reminding me of the years I lived among the Greeks in Astoria. Generous chunks of juicy tomatoes. Crisp cucumber. Oregano. Olives. Orzo—ok strictly speaking that doesn’t go in a Greek salad, but this is my kitchen, ok? I added a couple of other nontraditional items: Marcona almonds, since I had them and I like them. Pecorino cheese instead of feta, since I can’t stand the latter (and S is none too fond of it either). A few spears of vinegar-poached eggplant, leftover from the other day—which were good, but not good enough to blog about separately. If you’re curious, the recipe’s in Lidia’s Family Table, which I love to read and haven’t cooked from nearly enough. Oops, another digression. By now you get the picture—this recipe’s pretty flexible; practically anything from the Mediterranean world would work.

Essentially, it’s a Greekish pasta salad. Oh, my, it was good.

A Greekish Orzo-Tomato Salad
Serves 3-4

½ pound orzo
½ small red onion, finely diced
1 package chicken sausages
2 perfectly ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cucumber, quartered vertically and cut into small chunks
12 kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
6 spears vinegar-poached eggplant, cut into chunks [from Lidia’s Family Table; artichoke hearts would be a good substitute]
Handful of Marcona almonds, halved
Feta cheese, crumbled [Or use Pecorino, as I did]
Juice of 1 lemon
Red wine vinegar
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
Dried oregano

Cook orzo according to package directions. While it’s cooking, soak the diced red onion in ice water for at least ½ hour—it’ll take off some of the raw-oniony bite. When the orzo is done, rinse well with cold water to bring it to room temp.

Prepare sausages according to package directions—I cooked mine in a nonstick frying pan with a little olive oil for about five minutes a side, then sliced them and browned the slices for 30 seconds or so (but that’s because I like things more browned—you don’t have to do that second part if you don’t want to). Set aside to cool.

Put ALL the ingredients into a huge bowl, toss, and serve.