The first time I had this salad was years ago at a friend's annual labor day party, and everyone loved it so much that it now makes an appearance every year. It's a very simple salad with not many ingredients, so it's kind of vital to use the best you can afford/get your hands on. The flavors mingle together really well, yet still manage to be prominent enough to taste every nuance. So, get the best olives, preferably with the pits (it is cumbersome to pit them yourself, but it'll be worth it since the texture between pitted and not is night and day), the best french goat's milk feta, and some really special extra virgin olive oil. The salad isn't swimming in oil, yet there is enough to keep the ingredients flowing and not clumped up.
A small disclaimer, I am aware that this recipe comes from a James Beard cookbook full of different kinds of salads... or is it pasta dishes... not really sure, it's been a while since I've perused it. I've never referenced the recipe myself when making this dish, since I simply go with the ratios of ingredients that suits my taste. I may be forgetting some, or including things that were never in the original salad I tasted. It's really no matter, because as long as you use high quality ingredients here, whatever ratio of them you prefer, it will be pretty delicious to you too.
1 1/2 cup uncooked orzo pasta
heaping 1/2 cup dried lentils
~1 cup kalmatta or favorite olive,
pitted and finely chopped
4 - 6 ounces feta, crumbled
1/3 cup good quality extra virgin
~1/2 cup dill, lightly packed and
1 small lemon, juiced
several splashes red wine
sea or kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
Set a large pot of salted water on the stove to boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, spread out the lentils in an even layer and check them over for any non-lentil debris. Place the lentils in a medium sauce pan with 2 cups cold water. Cover and turn heat up to medium high, and give them a good stir after a few minutes. Once they come to a boil, dial heat down to medium low and cook for 20 minutes (still covered), or until they are tender yet not mushy, stirring occasionally. Drain any remaining water from the lentils, and set aside.
Once the water is at a boil, dump in the orzo and cook till al dente. Drain the pasta and immediately rinse in cold water and drain thoroughly. While the pasta is cooking, prep all other ingredients and place in a large bowl, preferably one you don't mind serving in. Add the cooked orzo and lentils with a couple pinches of salt and lots of turns of pepper. Toss well and adjust seasoning if needed. This is where I like to add some red wine vinegar, or more lemon juice if that is more your thing. Either way, the orzo and lentils really soak up the seasonings. The earthiness of the lentils can really hold up to some aggressive seasonings, but don't be tempted to add too much acid or salt, since too much of either can thoroughly offset the balance of flavors you want to achieve.
This salad can be served room temperature, but I think it tastes the best after sitting in the fridge over night so the flavors can really meld. Serve with a few more sprigs of dill and a good drizzle of olive oil. This is great as a side, but I love a big bowl of it for a totally filling lunch.