For me, summer is a time to picnic in the mountains. It is one of my favorite methods of clearing the stress after a long workweek to return clarity to my mental health. Picnics are cathartic, helping to reduce anxiety and depression through the sights and sounds associated with nature. It is possible to leave the foothills, where temperatures are in the 90s, and make your way into the heart of the Smoky Mountains to find temperatures in the upper 70s. This dramatic drop in temperatures makes the mountains an enticing draw when the oppressive heat of July hits.
While I prefer a shaded mountain setting, picnics at the beach or a local park are just as relaxing. In fact, you can picnic just about anywhere as long as you have the right companionship and the right foods packed in the basket. One of my new favorites for summer picnics is a chilled bowl of watermelon feta and orzo salad. The unexpected combination of flavors and textures complements the more traditional staples, such as chicken. As a bonus, watermelon possesses many health benefits. You can’t go wrong with a little watermelon!
Watermelon Feta and Orzo Salad
- 1 cup orzo pasta
- ½ cup Lemon-shallot Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
- 3 cups seeded and diced watermelon
- 4 cups firmly packed watercress or baby arugula
- 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
- Prepare pasta according to package directions. Toss together hot pasta and Lemon-shallot Vinaigrette in a large bowl. Cover and chill pasta mixture 3 to 24 hours.
- Gently toss together watermelon, watercress, feta cheese, and pasta mixture just before serving; add salt and pepper to taste.
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 minced shallot
- 1 cup olive oil
- ¼ cup minced fresh flat-leafed parsley
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
- Stir together lemon juice and minced shallot; let stand 5 minutes. Whisk in olive oil, parsley, honey, and mustard. Refrigerate in an airtight container up to 1 week.
Source – Southern Living