Packed with loads of bold and tangy flavour, this Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad will please almost everyone. Below I give you a wee menu of options to take it from hearty side salad to protein-packed lunch or dinner salad.
Preheat your oven to 180C fan/200C/400F.
Toss the chopped eggplant and the garlic cloves in one tablespoon of the olive oil. Lay them in an even layer on a baking tray and roast until the eggplant is soft and lightly browned - about 30 minutes, stirring all after 20 minutes.
While the eggplant and garlic are roasting, boil the orzo according to package directions. Or, about seven minutes if there are no instructions. Drain and rinse with cool water, then set aside.
Add the remaining oil to a jug or cup, along with one tablespoon of oil from the tomatoes. Also add the lemon juice, some pepper, minced habanero chilli if using (it's adds a lovely, fruity-hot taste); squeeze in the roasted garlic (pinch one end of the garlic off, and then squeeze). Mash the garlic with a fork, then beat everything until amalgamated.
Add the cooked orzo to a serving bowl, followed by the chopped smoked tomatoes, the eggplant, artichoke heart slices, chopped herbs and sliced Kalamata olives. Pour over the dressing, toss, and serve.
Make it a meal! Add in sauteed prawns/shrimp, grilled tofu, cooked beans or legumes (like chickpeas or borlotti).
Variations: add one or more of the following
Roasted red pepper
Thin slivers of raw broccoli
Feta cheese or goat's cheese
Chickpeas or borlotti beans
Cooked runner beans or green beans (sliced)
Sauteed or thinly-sliced raw zucchini
Fresh cherry tomatoes
Toasted seeds, such as pine nuts
Add Dijon mustard to the dressing in place of the chilli (it's nice to have some kind of "bite")
Black garlic in place of the roasted garlic
Fresh, minced garlic