1/4cupItalian flat leaf parsleychopped, for garnish
Cook orzo according to package instructions. Rinse in cold water to cool.
As orzo cooks, cube and cook chicken (or chicken-less pieces). Cut chicken into cubes. Add extra virgin olive oil to large saucepan. Add cubed chicken to pan and sautee until cooked thoroughly. Set aside.
Clean and prepare all vegetables and herbs. Pit and thinly slice green olives and Kalamata olives. Chop tomatoes and separate into two equal portions--one portion will be used in sofrito, while the other portion remains raw and is added directly to salad. Dice onion, celery and yellow bell pepper. Mince garlic. Lastly, chiffonade fresh basil leaves and loosely chop flat leaf parsley.
Prepare sofrito. Pour extra virgin olive oil into saucepan. Add diced onions and sautee until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add diced celery, stirring continuously while sauteeing for 1 minute. Add garlic, basil leaf chiffonade, and one portion of tomatoes. Stir and sautee for 2 minutes.
Assemble salad. Pour cooked/cooled orzo into large serving bowl. Mix in prepared sofrito (sauteed onion, celery, garlic, tomato, basil). Top with cubed chicken, green olives, Kalamata olives, raw tomatoes, yellow bell pepper and feta cheese.
Garnish and serve. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil (optional), balsamic vinegar over salad. Add salt and pepper to taste, and mix in well. Sprinkle chopped flat leaf Italian parsley over top of salad and serve.
To make vegetarian, substitute a favorite plant-based protein for chicken.
To make vegan, substitute a plant-based protein for chicken and a favorite plant-based cheese substitute for feta.
Tasty additions/substitutions include black olives, Greek olives, pickled beets, roasted aubergine/eggplant, zucchini, fresh avocado and cilantro. Try new additions and add a comment with your favorites!
Chiffonade: a knife technique/slicing motion in which leafy green vegetables (think of spinach or Swiss chard), or a flat-leaved herb like basil, are rolled up into a cigar shape, then cut into long, thin strips.
Serve immediately, or store in refrigerator for up to 2 days.