Monday, 2 April 2012

Chinese Pea Pod, Tomato, Onion and Orzo Salad - A Crunchy Side or Main Dish

My twin grandchildren came home for the holidays. Our grocery bill shot up like a rocket and, no matter how often I went to the store, I couldn't keep the refrigerator stocked. I couldn't think of tasty lunches either. Apparently the holidays and my grandchildren's erratic schedules had addled my brain. One day I decided to serve sandwiches for lunch. A sandwich wouldn't be enough, so I decided to serve a side dish. What would it be?
After rummaging in the fridge, I found an unopened package of Chinese pea pods, half a box of cherry tomatoes, some tomato and basil feta cheese, and a red onion. Chinese pea pods are expensive and I wanted to use them while they were still fresh.
The pods, which are also called snow peas, are regular peas that are picked before they mature. You can see and feel the tiny peas inside. The Cook's Thesaurus website describes them as an edible pod and common ingredient in stir-fry dishes. According to the website, you should cook the pods for only a minute, no more. The pods may also be eaten raw and the Foodista website offers tips for buying them.
First, look for pods that are a light or medium green. "Those whose color is especially light or dark, or those that are yellow, whitish or are speckled with gray, should be avoided," the website explains. Second, the pods should look firm. If the store sells them in bluk, feel one to see if it's stiff. You may also break one apart to see if it snaps.
Preparing Chinese pea pods is easy. Rinse them under cold water, cut off the tips, and pull off the string along the edge. I leave the strings on small pods. All of these ingredients -- pea pods, cherry tomatoes, red onion, and feta cheese -- became a tasty side salad. I used cooked orzo (rice-shaped pasta) as the base of the salad.
When I tasted the mixture my eyes widened in surprise and I said "Mmmmm." My granddaughter looked at me in surprise. "Guess it's good grandma," she commented. I think you'll say "Mmmmm" when you taste this crunchy salad.
1 cup cooked orzo
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups of "matchstick" pea pods
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup (or more) crumbled feta cheese with tomato and basil
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
Cook orzo according to package directions. Rinse pasta under cold water and transfer to a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pasta to prevent it from sticking together. Rinse the pea pods, cut off the tips, remove the strings, and cut into thin "matchsticks." Add to orzo, along with the remaining ingredients. Toss salad gently. Serve as a side dish with sandwiches or add cooked shrimp, cooked salmon or tuna for a main dish. Makes 6 servings.