Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

It’s a damp, wet day here in Chicago,  but the calendar says May 1st and I’m more than ready for something grilled up and served with a sumptuous, summer salad.  Today I’m paring this lovely, lemony orzo dish with a succulent grilled salmon, marinated with the same lemon dressing used in the salad.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

(adapted from recipe by Iowa Girl Eats)


6 oz dry orzo pasta

1-1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, sliced

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1/4 cup chopped parsley

2 Tablespoons capers

For the Lemon Dressing:

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon each kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

1 teaspoon honey

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Pasta Directions

Cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Drain in a colander then set aside to cool a bit. You want the pasta to be slightly warm when you add the dressing so it will absorb well.

Prepare the Lemon Dressing:

In a mini food processor add lemon juice, salt, freshly ground pepper, honey and garlic.  Do a taste test and add more salt and pepper to your liking but be careful with the salt –  the salad contains capers and olives, which will be salty as well.

In a medium sized bowl, add cooked pasta with remaining ingredients. Toss with half of the dressing then taste. Add more as desired.   This salad can be served immediately at room temperature or refrigerated and served cold. Makes about 6 servings.


Patriotic Fruit Salad

Patriotic Fruit Salad

Have some fun with the 4th of July holiday by giving your fruit salad some patriotic flair. It’s so simple and so fun.

Patriotic Fruit Salad

You’ll need:

Small or medium watermelon

1 pint fresh strawberries

1 pint blueberries

Star cookie cutter

Slice your watermelon into 1 to 1 1/2 inch slices. Lay flat on a cutting board and cut out star shapes.

Add sliced strawberries and blueberries. That’s it! Serve ice cold for a refreshing addition to your picnic menu.

star watermelon 2

Italian Chopped Salad (Portillo’s)

chopped salad 1

If you’re from the Chicagoland area, you’re familiar with Portillo’s and this fabulous salad.  If not, let me clue you in.

A Chicago native, Dick Portillo opened his first hot dog stand in a 6′ x 12′ trailer in the suburb of Villa Park in 1963. A big success by 1967, “The Dog House” was remodeled and renamed “Portillo’s”.  Today the Portillo’s Restaurant Group has over 4,000 employees and 50 restaurants. Famous for their hot dogs, burgers and italian beef, salads were added in 1993 and this Italian chopped salad is one of their most popular. Chock full of tasty ingredients, this salad is served as a main course and is very satisfying.

My version is adapted from Christine Trevino’s copy cat recipe at

The Sweet Italian Dressing recipe is from the July 7, 2006 Chicago Sun Times, and was submitted by Dennis Cottini, Glenview, IL

You will need:
Ditalini pasta (One cup dried pasta)
One 7 ounce package romaine leaves (4 cups chopped)
One small head iceberg lettuce (3 cups chopped)
One 8 ounce package pre-shredded red cabbage (2-1/2 cups chopped)
2 large fresh tomatoes
Green onions (One cup sliced)
12 slices bacon (1 cup cooked diced)
4 oz. gorgonzola cheese crumbled

Cook pasta following package directions. Drain and set aside to cool.
Cook bacon until crisp. Chop into bite size pieces.
Wash lettuce and cabbage, remove excess water using a salad spinner.
Chop lettuce and cabbage. Slice onion, seed and dice tomatoes.
Add lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes and onions to a large salad bowl. Top with pasta, bacon and cheese. Toss to combine.
Add dressing to taste, toss and serve. Tip- only add dressing to number of portions you’ll be serving. Store any un-used salad in refrigerator and add dressing when you are ready to serve, otherwise leftovers will be soggy. This recipe makes 6 large main course portions.

Sweet Italian Dressing (Makes 2/3 cup)
You will need:
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Place vinegar, garlic, sugar, oregano, salt and pepper in a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle olive oil through the blender top or feed tube until dressing is combined and emulsified.

chopped salad 2