Basil Orzo Salad with Corn, Chickpeas, Feta and Summer Vegetables

Recipe by Molly Hays

Basil Orzo Salad with Corn, Chickpeas, Feta and Summer Vegetables
adapted from Jerry Traunfeld, The Herbal Kitchen

This is one of those clever, hard-working recipes: You chop while the water boils, cook the vegetables with the pasta and have dinner made in 20 minutes. It also makes ideal picnic fare, as it holds beautifully, is mayonnaise-free and tastes best at room temperature. 

Adapt the vegetables to whatever is good and fresh; only the corn is essential. Lemon basil is fantastic here, if you’ve got it; sweet basil is equally, differently wonderful. 

Photo by Molly Hays

Photo by Molly Hays

2 teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoons freshly ground pepper
¼ cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 1–2 limes)
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 ears fresh corn
3 small zucchini, cut into ¼-inch coins (optional)
2 cups greens beans, topped, tailed, and cut into ½-inch bits (optional)
1 sweet red pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into ¼-inch dice
8 ounces orzo pasta
1 bunch (six) scallions, white and pale green ends sliced
1 (15-ounce) tin chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1½  packed cups sweet or lemon basil, washed and well dried
1 heaping cup feta, crumbled

Set a large stockpot of well-salted water to boil.

In a lidded jar, combine vinegar, lime juice, salt and pepper. Swirl to dissolve salt. Add olive oil, replace lid and shake vigorously to combine. Set aside.

Stand shucked ears of corn upright in a wide, shallow bowl, and cut off kernels with a sharp knife, just to the cob. Set aside. Slice zucchini and green beans if using, and set aside together, separately from the corn. (These vegetables will be added to the pasta water in two stages: first the zucchini and green beans, then the corn.)

In a large serving bowl, combine diced red pepper, sliced scallions, slivered basil and ⅔ of feta, and set aside.

When pasta water comes to the boil, add orzo and set timer to 5 minutes fewer than final cooking time (mine took 10; I set the timer to 5). When orzo is 5 minutes from done, add the zucchini and green beans, if using. Stir, and return to the boil for 4 minutes. One minute from orzo’s final cooking time (test one; orzo should be al dente), add corn, return just to the boil, then drain orzo and vegetables into a colander.

Return hot pasta and cooked vegetables to the stockpot, and toss with all the dressing, plus the chickpeas, while still warm. Let sit 10 minutes, to cool slightly. While cooling, sliver basil: Stack a dozen leaves, then roll them and slice them crosswise with a sharp chef’s knife, repeating until done. When pasta is no longer steaming, toss gently with the red pepper, scallions, basil and ⅔ feta. Top with remaining feta, and eat immediately, or leave out up to 4 hours. Salad is best served at room temperature. Leftovers are marvelous the next day.