The world is big, and when our mom emigrated from Greece in search of a better life, she could have ended up in several places; in particular, the United States and Australia already had a significant number of Greek immigrants that she could have joined. Circumstance however, had her dock in Nova Scotia. From there she travelled to Montreal, where she settled, worked, and raised enough money to travel back to Greece to marry our dad, and to then return back to Canada with him. In those early years, our parents sponsored several of their siblings and they too made their way across the ocean. It was in Montreal that most of their children were born and their families raised.
We love our city. It has a rich history (some of it controversial) and in fact, Montreal is currently in the midst of celebrating it’s 375th anniversary. It is an energetic place, with a European influence evident in the architecture, art, food, and people. Although it is officially a bilingual city, with French and English being the two official languages of our province of Quebec, that description is a little simplistic. In fact, Montreal is a great multicultural and multilingual metropolis, with waves of new immigrants from all corners of the world arriving and enriching our city. There are so many obvious reasons to love Montreal (you should come visit!) and yet, there is one great reason which is often overlooked, or cursed. The weather. That’s right…the weather! It can be horrible, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world.
As in most of Canada, we really feel the seasons in Montreal. There is no seamless continuation of great weather carrying you through summer, fall, winter and spring. Oh, no! In Canada, you know when it’s winter, and you embrace it. You ski, shovel, skate, shovel, slide down mountains, shovel, build snowmen, and shovel. This of course makes you truly appreciate the hot, humid, and sunny days of summer. For us, summer living begins with Victoria Day long weekend; a national holiday held on the Monday preceding May 25, to commemorate the birthday of Queen Victoria. And that brings us, finally, to this salad. Warmer weather is equated with grilling season, and as barbecues around the city get fired up, we need delicious sides to round out our meals. This flavourful and super easy salad is the perfect accompaniment to everything.
This salad can be eaten right after it’s made, but is actually more delicious if you let it sit for a few hours. You can have it cold, right out of the refrigerator, or at room temperature. Either is fine, and both are yummy.
This recipe calls for pesto. If you happen to have homemade pesto…great. Use that! If you don’t, simply purchase a good quality bottled pesto. Keep your opened jar in the refrigerator, so that you can make this salad again and again and again.
It is not always easy to find pitted kalamata olives, so you may have to remove the pit yourself. It is pretty easy to do. Simply take a knife with a wide (but not too sharp) blade and press onto your olive, enough to split it open. Then, gently pry the pit out. Please, don’t substitute canned, pitted olives here. Those are typically gross, and taste like salty plastic.
If you don’t like orzo, you can easily make this salad with another type of small pasta. Try macaroni, or ditalini pasta.
If you want some extra
calories flavour, try crumbling some Greek feta cheese on top of this salad. It is delicious (like everything topped with feta).
Mia Kouppa: Greek pasta salad
- 3/4 cup (175 ml) orzo pasta (uncooked)
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) Greek olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) pesto
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon (4 ml) finely chopped lemon zest
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) freshly ground pepper
- 1 cup (250 ml) diced red pepper
- 1 cup (250 ml) diced cucumber
- 1 cup (250 ml) cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) pitted kalamata olives
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) chopped green onions
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) capers
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) dried Greek oregano
- Cook the orzo according to the directions on the package. Drain and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl (one which will accommodate your entire salad) combine the olive oil, pesto, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Whisk until well combined.
- Gently fold in the remaining ingredients (pasta and vegetables and herbs). Stir carefully so that the dressing coats all the ingredients. Enjoy.