Penne for your thoughts?

Have you ever wondered why there are so many different types of pasta? If I had a penne for every time I was asked…

Ok. I’m done. For now.

The warm(ish) weather is here! The warmer it gets outside, the cooler I want the food I eat. No, I’m not talking about ice cream–though that will come later.

I’m talking about something hearty, healthy, and filling. Yet, it can’t be too heavy and weigh me down. It is a tricky line to walk–finding something satisfying, without it being too heavy.

With the warm weather comes all the wonderful veggies and herbs of the season. My garden had a few shoots of asparagus, which I am thrilled about. They didn’t last long, though. FYI, they were delicious.

Also popping up all over the place is my dill plant. I have no idea why, but I have been having intense dill cravings. Mostly with pretzels and mustard; or salmon, or by itself… I don’t know why. I just can’t seem to get enough of the herb. It’s just delicious. I want it all the time.

Because I want it all the time, I planted far too much of it. And now I have to find a use for it. Luckily I have; and what a delicious use it is.

One of my favorite parts about summer, apart from all the fresh fruits, veg, and herbs, are the festivals–mostly because they revolve around food and booze.

Quite a few years ago, I went to a Greek festival with some family friends. Now, keep in mind, I was young and my taste buds hadn’t really evolved to appreciate anything apart from, you know, pasta with sauce and cheese…

While we were there, we danced, we sang, and we tried all the food. Most of it was delicious, I remember that much. But, and there is always a but, there was one thing that sticks out in my mind. And it wasn’t because I liked it.

Stuffed grape leaves.

All I remember about them was that they were salty, bitter, tough, and full of something crunchy and unpleasant. There was a hint of something sweet, which didn’t make sense to my unsophisticated palate. It was definitely not high on my “foods to ever try again” list. And until I made this recipe, I hadn’t even thought about stuffed grape leaves. Suppression much?

As I was surfing the internet for recipes to try, my theme being something with dill as the focus, I came across a stuffed grape leaves recipe. It looked good. I thought, sure, I’ll give it a go, but my way.

salad4My way meaning…well, not traditional in the slightest. Instead of rice, I used orzo. I took out the meat and used beans instead. I added veggies. Dill was a prominent feature, but not over-powering. I kept the lemon, though.

This is the resulting recipe. Slightly adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Deconstructed Stuffed Grape Leaf Salad


1 c uncooked orzo
10-15 grape leaves, rinsed and chopped (I used two rolls of a brined variety, not fresh)
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 c chopped cucumber
5-7 stalks asparagus, cut into one inch pieces, woody parts discarded
1/2 c chopped fresh dill
1/4 c diced red onion
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp rice vinegar


  1. Cook orzo pasta according to package directions. However, add the chopped grape leaves to the pasta water while cooking.
  2. Once done cooking, drain the orzo and grape leaves. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and to wash away some of the starches.
  3. Allow the pasta and leave mixture to cool.
  4. In a large bowl, combine orzo, grape leaves, beans, cucumbers, asparagus, dill, and red onion. Toss to distribute.
    salad 1
  5. Drizzle the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, dill, salt, and pepper over salad and stir until ingredients are well coated.
    salad 3
  6. Serve immediately or chilled.


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