Toasted Orzo Salad with Lemon and Chickpeas

Toasted Orzo Salad with Lemon and Feta

I could cook pasta every night of the week and make everyone happy. But at the same time I like to make a meal that falls under my definition of “healthy” and “delicious”.

Orzo is familiar as a side dish or floating in soup, but I find that toasting it first and mixing it with lots of vegetables makes it ten times more complex and interesting.

I’ve played on the Greek heritage of orzo in this recipe and borrowed from the Mediterranean pantry by using chickpeas, cumin, lemon and tangy feta cheese. I would serve this on a pile of arugula and call it lunch or dinner.

Toasted Orzo Salad with Lemon and Chickpeas

Serving Size: serves 4


1 cup orzo pasta

2 tablespoons butter

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup canned chickpeas, drained

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

¼ cup chopped fresh dill

1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup chopped seedless or Persian cucumber

Baby arugula greens


  1. Warm a dry 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat; add the orzo and toast until golden brown and nutty-smelling, about 10 minutes, tossing the pan frequently. Remove from the heat and cool.
  2. Bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente. Drain and transfer to a bowl along with the butter, stirring until butter melts completely.
  3. Whisk together the lemon juice, zest, olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper; pour over the orzo. Add the chickpeas, pine nuts, dill and cucumber to the bowl and gently toss together. Top with the cheese and serve over the arugula.

Tuscan Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

Somewhere along the line I got into a habit of eating my daily greens, and by daily I mean All Day, even starting at breakfast with a little pile of leafy greens near, under or around my poached egg. Sometimes it’s baby arugula or maybe washed salad greens leftover from dinner the night before.

I have a favorite method of quickly cooking my greens Italian-style, but this here kale salad might be my favorite way to eat them just plain raw. It’s easy to put together and the sturdy kale leaves hold up so well with the lemony-Parmesan dressing you could even make it hours ahead of time with no fear of a wilted soggy salad – in fact, it only improves matters.

You’ll probably love the roasted chickpeas as much as I do – they garnish the salad very nicely but become an addictive (and yes, healthy) little snack all by themselves.

If you can’t find Tuscan kale – which is also called Lacinato, cavolo nero, black or Dinosaur kale – regular curly kale will do.

Tuscan kale with roasted chickpeas

Tuscan Kale Salad with Roasted Chickpeas

Yield: 4 servings, or one salad for 1 hungry person


1 can chickpeas, drained

1/2 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (Pimenton)

Kosher salt

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 big lemon, zested and juiced

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

1 small garlic clove, smashed and chopped

Pinch Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes

1 bunch Tuscan kale, stems trimmed and washed


  1. Heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Toss the chickpeas on a small rimmed baking sheet with the Pimenton, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Roast the chickpeas for 10 - 12 minutes - they should smell good and become a little bit crunchy.
  3. Whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons oil with the lemon zest and juice, cheese, garlic and red pepper. Taste and season with a pinch of salt if you think it needs some.
  4. Roughly tear the kale leaves into pieces and blot with a clean towel if they're dripping wet; put into a large bowl. Pour the dressing over and toss the leaves with your hands so that they're evenly coated - your hands will taste yummy.
  5. Serve the salad with some of the chickpeas spooned over the top and sprinkled with curls of Parmesan, if you like.

Classic Minestrone Soup

Classic Minestrone Soup

According to Marcella Hazan, the character of an Italian soup depends on two things: the season and the place.

If you plopped yourself into summertime on the coast of southern Italy for example, your bowl of soup would likely be a fragrant chemistry of ripe tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and sparkling fresh seafood; during colder months further north in Tuscany there’d be a hearty stick-to-your-ribs stew – ribollita – containing dried beans, potatoes, stale bread and winter vegetables like cabbage and kale.

Classic minestrone soup is a versatile recipe, easy to put together any time of year, comfortably bridging transitions between seasons. My summer minestrone would definitely include fresh tomatoes, zucchini and lots of basil, but the soup I made yesterday was based on what I have in the winter pantry: carrots, onion, fennel bulb, cooked Italian beans and a little tomato paste. I stirred in cooked whole wheat elbow macaroni, blanched green beans and dark green spinach too.

Sprinkle with a little freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese, serve with crusty bread and call it dinner.

Classic Minestrone Soup

Serving Size: serves 4 - 6


1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped carrots

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped celery

1 fennel bulb, trimmed and chopped

3 or 4 finely chopped garlic cloves

1 tablespoon tomato paste

Salt and fresh ground pepper

2 cups cooked dried beans or canned kidney beans, drained

Large handful green beans, blanched in salted boiling water 3 minutes; cut into 2-inch pieces

Small bunch dark leafy greens: spinach, chard or kale, washed

2 cups cooked bite size pasta, such as elbows, ditali or tiny shells

Grated Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for serving


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot. Add the carrots and onion. Cook for a 3-4 mintues; add the celery and fennel and cook a few minutes more to soften.
  2. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste and about 1 teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Pour in 6 cups water and bring to a simmer. Add the dried beans, partially cover the pot and cook 15 minutes at a simmer.
  3. Just before serving, stir in the green beans and spinach. Taste the soup and add more salt and pepper if you want to. Sprinkle with cheese at the table.
  4. Like all soup, this tastes great made ahead a day or two and reheated.