For most Americans, it seems as though Memorial Day has become more about transitioning into summer than about honoring the soldiers who have died for the country. Rather than paying homage to those brave men and women, we tend to use the day as an excuse to fire up the barbecue, pop open a few beers and break out the white capris that have been hibernating in the back of the closet since Labor Day.
As such, over the years I have come to associate the day with my dad's barbecued chicken, the sweet ears of corn that are finally in season, and homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream fresh from the maker. These are the things that my childhood summer memories are made of. And these are the things that I instinctively found myself craving yesterday.
My two roommates and I had planned to make our Memorial Day Monday night an occasion for bonding over good food and wine at an undetermined location, but when I woke up yesterday morning, all I wanted to do was enjoy a casual, simple supper at home. I wasn't about to duck out on the festitivies at the last minute, but I was secretly thrilled when my roommate said he wasn't feeling well enough to go out.
"Oh that's fine! Not to worry at all!" I enthused. "We'll reschedule! Wouldn't want you to push yourself when you are sick." I continued, already fantasizing about the summer-inspired meal I would make.
It didn't take long for me to decide on teriyaki-marinated grilled chicken (prepared on my grill pan), Giada's orzo salad that became a staple in my parent's house last summer, and the aforementioned ear of sweet yellow corn. Even though I didn't get to enjoy it with my family on the patio of my Newport Beach childhood home, the fresh, festive meal was the perfect bite of nostalgia for the end of the long weekend, and a precursor for what is to come in the months ahead. Here's hoping it involves at least a few occasions that warrant homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Orzo with Tomatoes, Feta, and Green Onions
Adapted from Giada's recipe on Epicurious
Makes 2 generous side portions
1/2 cup whole wheat orzo
1 tablespoon low sodium Better than Bouillon chicken base mixed with 5 cups of water (original recipe calls for regular chicken broth)
1 large vine-ripened tomato, chopped (original recipe calls for red and yellow teardrop or grape tomatoes)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons slivered almonds or pinenuts, toasted (I used almonds)
3 tablespoons feta cheese
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
2 teaspoons basil-infused olive oil (can use regular EVOO)
2 teaspoons agave nectar (original recipe calls for honey)
Salt, pepper to taste
Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, agave nectar, olive oil, lemon zest, and salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook orzo in chicken broth according to package instructions. When tender, but still firm to the bite, drain and transfer to a large wide bowl, tossing frequently until cool. Toss with vinaigrette so the pasta doesn't stick together.
Mix tomatoes, feta, basil, and green onions into orzo. Season with additional salt and pepper. Let stand at room temperature or refrigerate until needed. Top with slivered almonds.