After what felt like a nonstop June, I am welcoming July with open arms. My plan is for slow mornings spent drinking coffee on my back porch and lazy, hot afternoons up in the mountains or next to a pool.
As of right now, my house is filled with tween-age boys who are playing some sort of freeze-tag-like game that includes jumping from bed to bed throughout the house, so I’m not entirely sure how peaceful or slow the month will actually be, but a girl can dream, right?
For Independence Day, our plan is to hightail it out of town first thing in the morning to hike the Naches Loop Trail. I’m hoping for epic views and happy children. Once we’re properly sweaty and tired, we’ll head back into town for a barbecue with friends and family before finding a spot to watch fireworks.
Knowing I’m short on time when we get back from hiking, I plan to make this easy orzo salad filled with cherries, toasted almonds, bright herbs like basil, chives and parsley and creamy goat cheese. To stretch the salad, I pile the pasta on greens, making this easy salad not only tasty and satisfying but enough for a crowd. Perfect for a potluck or barbecue, take this salad to all your summer festivities.
And as always, use this recipe as a platform to make it your own. You can always swap cherries for blueberries, or use both. Feta would be lovely instead of goat cheese, and use any kind of greens you prefer. Arugula would be especially delicious, but romaine and spinach work wonderfully, too. You can’t go wrong!
Wishing you and yours a happy and safe Independence Day.
• Andrea McCoy writes the column Kitchen Captivated for Yakima Magazine and at The Salt and Stone, a home cooking blog. The Salt and Stone is a nod not just to the essence of cooking, but also to the Yakima Valley. Read more at www.thesaltandstone.com.
Orzo Pasta Salad with Cherries, Almonds, Goat Cheese and Greens
2 cups cooked orzo pasta
1 cup pitted cherries, sliced in half
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
2 green onions, diced
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
2 tablespoons chives, minced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, minced
2 tablespoons basil, minced
Juice of half a lemon
1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 head romaine lettuce, shredded
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a baking sheet, spread slivered almonds evenly on tray. Bake for 5 minutes or until the almonds turn golden brown. Stir once and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the almonds are toasty and golden on all sides. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Cook orzo pasta to package instructions. When the pasta is tender but not soft, drain from water. Rinse pasta with cold water and return to the pot. Drizzle with a tablespoon of olive oil and stir well. Allow the pasta to cool completely.
In a medium bowl, gently combine cooked orzo, cherries, slivered almonds, green onions, goat cheese and herbs. Stir to combine. Squeeze the lemon over the pasta mixture. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and remaining olive oil. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with kosher salt and pepper. Cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve (can be made a day ahead of time).
To serve the salad, wash and shred the lettuce. In a large serving bowl, layer the orzo salad over the greens. Garnish with minced basil and a sprinkle of kosher salt. Gently combine the greens with the pasta.