Lentil Orzo Salad makes a perfect summertime meal. Credit: Sandy Oliver

Summer weather arrived a few days before the calendar said it would. The heat turned our minds to salad suppers, cool and wholesome meals with beans, pasta and chopped vegetables (not to mention potato salad, green salad and coleslaw.) Somehow, I simply don’t crave roast beef and mashed potatoes when the temperatures creep north of 85 degrees.

I have no idea why it hadn’t occurred to me before to combine lentils with pasta. But I am just beginning to explore lentil possibilities, so for now I’ll attribute it to that. A satisfactory bean and pasta salad needs a vegetable addition of at least a couple of ribs of celery, some red onion, and a couple of carrots.

After that, it’s anyone’s game.

In very little time, there will be fresh peas, green beans, and cucumber and cherry tomatoes, straight out of the garden, and usually available anytime from the grocery store. I was out of red pepper or else I’d have added that, but I chopped up some dilly beans and added them. If you like jalapenos, or chili peppers, then those would be dandy. Corn kernels would not go amiss.

To make it easier to assemble, use your favorite vinaigrette or Italian dressing, homemade or out of the bottle. I put my salad on a bed of fresh lettuce. Make a lot and let it marinate for a day and it gets even better.

So it’s for supper or for lunch. Or take it on a picnic as we did Saturday evening at a nearby beach to observe the Solstice. (In fact, it seemed such a wholesome addition to our meal that I rationalized treating myself to a S’more for dessert.)

We ate leftovers at supper on Sunday and lunch on Monday. It just got tastier and tastier until it was gone.

Lentil Orzo Salad

Serves 6 to 8

2 cups lentils

4 cups of water

1 cup orzo

2 cups of salted water

1 small red onion

2 carrots, shredded

2 ribs celery, chopped

Red pepper, fresh steamed peas, diced cucumber, optional to taste

Vinaigrette or Italian salad dressing to taste

Salt and pepper

Bring the lentils to a boil in four cups of water, immediately reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for twenty to thirty minutes, sampling after twenty minutes to see if they are tender enough.

Do not overcook.

Drain and put into a large bowl.

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, bring two cups of well-salted water to a boil, and add the orzo.

Boil for seven to ten minutes, or until al dente, drain, and rinse with cold water.

Add to the lentils.

Add the rest of the chopped vegetables to the lentils and orzo, toss to mix, and add the salad dressing, making sure you continue tossing to cover the salad evenly with dressing, sampling and adding more to taste.

Add salt and pepper.

Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...