That sweet spot in summer is finally here. The grass is green, not just on the other side, but THIS side! The stress of the school year has melted away and in its place comes a silence that lingers long. The heat of the sun is close to perfect, it is hot, but takes awhile to scorch so long walks are still able to be had.
During these months I like to watch movies that reflect the season. Movies set in Tuscany, the deep south, Lebanon, India are perfect. The heat of the season must reflect itself in the media consumed. I can’t explain it but it is for the same reason we like to watch Christmas movies in December.
The inspiration for this post came from a combination of some of my favorite climates. In the summer some of my favorite foods come from the coastal areas of Europe & Southwest Asia. The people of the hot Mediterranean chaparral know how to make a tasty cold salad that is never boring. Be it fattoush, panzanella, tabbouleh, Caprese (see my recipe here) or orzo; “salad” in that area of the world is much more than lettuce w/bottled dressing. I love it!
Orzo salad makes an easy picnic food and can be eaten for a few days after and it will still maintain freshness. It is wonderful made with couscous if you wish to change it up and is incredibly versatile. The orzo gives it a Greek bent. Sumac is the secret ingredient which differentiates this orzo recipe from others.
Sumac is a spice (not of the poisonous Toxicodendron vernix, syn. Rhus vernix and other related varieties) that can often be found in Indian or “Middle Eastern” markets in the U.S. and adds a bright lemon flavor that is similar yet altogether different than adding lemon juice. It really is that indescribable…”what is…?” I have found that my favorite stuffed grape leaves most often have sumac as a seasoning. If you don’t live near an international market you can purchase some decently priced sumac here on Amazon.
I’d like to think that while eating it I am back in Boone Plantation, the setting of The Notebook (see it here if you are wanting to and support the blog!). How could one not be inspired by tall, mossy oaks stretching their strong but boney arms out over the road beckoning to the soul, “come, sit for awhile and listen to my sweet whispers.” Ahhh.
Now is the season to escape. Go find your own grassy knoll and have a picnic, solo or with family & friends. Whether it be deep in the woods or right around the corner, let your nose be the guide. Seek God in the scent of fresh turned earth, musty moss or sweet, green grass. Find your escape, bring this for lunch and mediate on the blessings of the season. Unless you are one of my Aussie followers who are mid-winter. Oh wait–you have nice weather year round! Antarctica, unless you are in Antarctica…then build a fire.
the dragons bear down/wielding my sword I fight/peace is had again
Mediterranean Orzo Salad w/ Lemon & Sumac
- 6 cups of orzo, whole wheat preferred
- 5-6 small or 2 large seedless cucumbers (Persian or English work well)
- 3 ripe red vine tomatos
- 1 can of garbanzo beans
- 1 small can of sliced black olives
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped mint
- 1 Tbsp sumac (you can buy a well priced sumac here)
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups feta (sheep’s milk is SO much better)
- sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
Cook the orzo until it is al dente. This means it still has a bit of a bite or “almost cooked through.” It will help to absorb the flavors and prevent the salad from getting too mushy. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water until it is no longer hot.
Chop up cucumber and tomato in small pieces. You have some leeway here. I prefer it hand chopped but if you whiz them in a food processor you get a bite of everything each time. Toss with the orzo.
Drain beans & olives and toss with orzo. Stir in lemon juice, mint, sumac and olive oil. Crumble feta over salad and toss until well mixed.
Salt it well. Salt really brings out the flavors. The saltier your feta, however, the less salt you need so taste often.
Enjoy. If you have any film recommendations to watch this summer I am all ears. PLEASE share!