Eggplant and Orzo Salad
This flavorful salad is great for summer outings, as it stays fresh outdoors. It also keeps well for a few days in the refrigerator. It’s a healthier take on traditional pasta salad, with nearly half the calories! If you are an eggplant lover this is a must try.
MAKES: 6 to 8 Servings
PREP/COOK TIME: 50 minutes
2 cups dried orzo
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, or as needed
3 cups 1/2-inch-diced eggplant (from a 1-pound eggplant)
3 Tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons flour
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon, fresh lemon juice, or as needed
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced lengthwise into 1/4-inch slivers
¾ cup chopped roasted red peppers (jarred or homemade)
1 tablespoon finely chopped mint
1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
2 tablespoons roughly chopped basil
4 ounces manouri, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3/4 cup) SEE Note
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the orzo according to the package directions. Drain, toss with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and spread on a baking sheet. Let cool in the refrigerator.
Toss the eggplant with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and place in a colander set over a bowl or in a sink. Put several bowls or plates on top of the eggplant and let drain for at least 30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with paper towels and set aside. In a heavy 10-inch skillet, heat 4 tablespoons of the olive oil and the canola oil over medium heat. Squeeze the excess liquid from the eggplant, blot with paper towels and toss in a bowl with the flour. In two batches, fry the eggplant until the cubes are crisp and golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to the prepared baking sheet. (Add a little extra oil to the pan for the second batch, as needed.)
In a large bowl, toss the orzo with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the lemon juice and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Fold in the olives, peppers, mint, dill, basil and manouri. Taste and adjust for seasoning with additional salt, pepper, lemon juice or olive oil. Just before serving, toss in the fried eggplant.
NOTE: Manouri is a Greek semi-soft, fresh white whey cheese made from goat or sheep milk as a by-product following the production of feta. It is produced primarily in Thessalia and Macedonia in central and northern Greece. Manouri is creamier than feta, because of the addition of cream to the whey. You can substitute feta cheese.