This Greek Inspired Orzo Salad Recipe is the perfect summery meal. The lemon and herb infused orzo paired with the tangy olives and fresh cherry tomatoes will transport you to a Greek island. As a bonus, this beauty comes together in 20 minutes. It has a little California twist with added avocado which gives this orzo salad a fusion edge.
A little Greek story
In 2003 I met a great girl named Thalassa who is one of my favorite friends. Thalassa means ocean in Greek. She has eyes the color of the sea and the prettiest, fullest lips and the biggest, most infectious smile you've ever seen. She's the daughter of an American woman named Toni and a Greek man named Yorgos. Her parents had a love affair for the books on the Isle of Paros in the 70s. Her parents, both remarkable people didn't stay together. She was raised in California which is where we met and became fast friends. I spent many evenings at her Mother's home, cooking in her sprawling kitchen and eating al fresco on her deck overlooking the Berkeley hills. We'd sit sipping red wine, laughing, smoking and talking all night with her Mom.
A big Greek Adventure
In 2005ish I had the privilege of visiting Greece with Thal. We stayed in her father's home in the middle of Athens, Greece. Yorgos, her Dad, was as incredible as I had imagined. His apartment was equal parts modest and impressive and overlooked the Parthenon. He was a working painter, a bachelor and lived a minimalist, bohemian lifestyle which I found fascinating. Yorgos cooked for us and we would eat on his veranda. His beautiful, simple, rustic dishes using fresh lemons and herbs, braised chicken thighs, rice, olives, peasant salads inspired me. He riveted us with tales of his youth and his sage advice. I remember all the eyes looking at us through the darkness as all the stray animals surrounded his patio, hoping for a scrap and him throwing water and muttering profanities to disperse them as we cackled like witches, intoxicated by the novelty and the wine.
Later, Thal and I travelled by boat to a small island called Paros. The beaches were exquisitely beautiful. The food was fresh and rustic. Day drinking followed by a nap was not taboo. We spent our evenings at the Taverna by the ocean, and our mornings smoking and drinking coffee seaside. It was a beautiful and inspiring trip.
My trip to Greece inspired me. I started playing with the flavors I had enjoyed on my trip. I treasure the memory of that voyage and the friendship I forged with Thal and her family of delicious nonconformists. Over the years my fascination with Mediterranean foods and flavors has blossomed into an obsession. This Greek Inspired Orzo salad is like a bowl of Thalassa herself. Fresh, sweet, zesty, tart, slightly unorthodox and rich with color. I hope you try it.
Greek Inspired Orzo Salad
- 1 bowl, 1 pot
- 1 pound orzo
- 4 each persian cucumbers chopped
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- ½ ea red onion chopped
- 10 ea calamata olives pitted and halved
- 1 ea avocado sliced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp pure maple syrup
- 2 ½ each lemons squeezed
- 1 pinch dry italian seasoning
- 1 pinch salt and black pepper to taste
- Cook orzo pasta as directed, rinse with cold water and drain.
- Put Orzo in a large mixing bowl and add olive oil, pure maple syrup and the juice of lemons. Mix with hands to distribute evenly throughout pasta
- Add Persian cucumbers, halved cherry tomatoes, red onion and calamata olives to bowl, salt lightly, drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive oil, a pinch of dried Italian seasoning and a few grinds of black pepper then mix into orzo with hands.
- Top with salted sliced avocado and a squeeze of lemon