As I turned my car onto Wendy’s street, a sense of calm came over me, despite the fact that I had three kids in the back seat, eager to get out after the 35-minute drive. Wendy is my childhood friend from upstate New York, but we have the good fortune of having both settled Maine.

A few weeks ago, her parents, who were my second family, were in town and we met at her house for lunch. To simplify the luncheon, Wendy decided to order sandwiches.

After my children and hers had a chance to play for a while, I left them in the care of their grandparents to help get lunch set up. As I slapped some peanut-butter and jelly sandwiches together for the kids, I noticed the beautiful salad atop her kitchen island.

Its colors and textures screamed summer, in spite of the constant rainy days of June. It was beautifully prepared with bits of spinach, olives, sun-dried tomatoes and more. The base of the salad was orzo, a rice-shaped pasta. After a couple of bites of my delicious sandwich and the salad, I commented on how wonderful both of them tasted.

Wendy said the salad is now a staple side dish. She has brought it to her book club, used it for work dinners, etc. and always gets rave reviews.
Before lunch was over, I knew this salad would become my summer staple, too. I am always trying to figure out what to bring to potluck barbecues. Wendy directed me to the Cooking Light magazine Web site, where I found the recipe. Not only did I find it, but I discovered a way to create my own online recipe box. I could organize and file all of my favorite recipes from the Cooking Light site and also add my own personal recipes by linking to

I started my own account and began filing away some favorites. When I shared this tip with my husband, he took a peek at our overflowing cookbooks on the kitchen book shelf. I had to let him know that although I do like this online cookbook, I’m not ready to give away my cookbooks anytime soon.

Mediterranean orzo salad with feta vinaigrette
by Barbara Lauterbach, published in Cooking Light, June 2005
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1¼ cups salad and about 1 tablespoon cheese)

1 cup uncooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta; about 8 ounces)
2 cups bagged prewashed baby spinach, chopped
½ cup chopped drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves
3 tablespoons chopped red onion
3 tablespoons chopped pitted kalamata olives
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon  salt
1 (6-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, undrained
3/4 cup (3 ounces) feta cheese, crumbled and divided

Cook the orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Combine orzo, spinach and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl. Drain artichokes, reserving marinade. Add coarsely chopped artichokes, reserved marinade and ½ cup feta cheese to orzo mixture, tossing gently to coat. Sprinkle each serving with remaining feta cheese.

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