Better-for-you swap #1 – marinades/dressing
One of the beautiful things about the summer season is the bounty of fresh vegetables we have at our disposal. Squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, herbs: they’re everywhere! Today, I’m putting them together with a Mediterranean flair for a Greek-inspired meal. Let’s start with our marinade/dressing. I put together a simple Greek dressing with red wine vinegar, lemon juice, Mazola Corn Oil, feta, garlic, and some Greek spices. I swapped out olive oil for corn oil because it’s smoke point is higher than most cooking oils (at 450°F), which means it will hold up better for the hot grill! The dressing is for the farro pasta salad and for the vegetable skewers, so you’ll get that bright, Mediterranean flavor throughout the entire dish! Mazola Corn Oil is an all-purpose, cholesterol free cooking oil that is a smart heart-healthy choice for your family. See Mazola.com for more information on the relationship between corn oil and heart health. It’s able to be used in a variety of cooking applications, like baking, grilling, sautéing, stir frying, or mixing up a marinade or dressing! You have to love a multi purpose product!
Swap #2 – farro
Yes, I know what you’re thinking – what is a farro “pasta salad, Katie?” If you haven’t enjoyed farro yet, I highly recommend picking some up next time you’re at the store! It’s an ancient grain that has the toothsome quality of al dente pasta when it’s cooked. Instead of using a traditional pasta in this salad, I boiled up farro and used it! Farro has more protein and more fiber than pasta, which make it a great choice. The farro also holds up nicely against a vinaigrette dressing, which is also an important aspect of this swap! I use it as a base in other grain bowls I make, serve it with eggs, and more! I recommend simply boiling farro for about 12-15 minutes until it becomes “al dente” like pasta, then draining and setting aside.
Swap #3 – no mayo, please!
I’ll be honest, I wanted NOTHING to do with a pasta salad for years and years. No offense to anyone who loves a creamy pasta salad made with mayonnaise, but it’s just not my personal favorite. One day, I discovered that the mayo in pasta salad could be swapped out for vinaigrette, and my life was forever changed. It’s a much lighter alternative, plus, in my book, it feels much more fresh and summery! And I’m just going to let you know that this particular Greek vinaigrette is super easy to put together, so no excuses when it comes to putting together your own dressing at home! I used corn oil in my dressing/marinade because it has a neutral taste that lets the natural flavor of your food stand out. And in a dressing, it allows the other flavors like the brightness of the lemon juice and the salty kick of feta cheese really shine.
Swap #4 – let’s go meatless
My meals are meatless every day, but I am always encouraging my friends and family to swap out meat for vegetables instead! Worried about protein? The farro provides it (1/4 cup of farro has 6 grams of protein). I promise you won’t be missing meat in this dish, because it will leave you feeling full AND feeling great because you’re consuming a rainbow of beautiful veggies!
- For the marinade/dressing:
- 5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 whole lemon)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 cup Mazola Corn Oil
- 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled.
- For the salad:
- 14 oz farro
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- ½ English cucumber, diced
- ½ pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
- ¼ cup Kalamata olives, sliced
- 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
- For the skewers:
- 1-2 zucchini
- 1-2 yellow squash
- 1 red onion
- 2 bell peppers (I used one red, one orange)
- 1 pint mushrooms
- Start by cooking the farro. Place a pot of water on the stove. When the water boils, add a pinch of salt and the farro. Boil uncovered for about 12-15 minutes, until farro is "al dente" in texture. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop cooking process. Set aside to cool completely before assembling salad.
- Then, make the dressing/marinade. Combine all of the ingredients in a jar. Seal with a lid and shake vigorously until combined - about 20-30 seconds. Refrigerate (can be stored for up to 1 week).
- To make the farro "pasta salad," combine the farro, the diced green pepper, cucumber, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, and feta cheese in a large bowl. Add 5-6 tablespoons of Greek vinaigrette and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours before serving to allow flavors to combine.
- To prepare the skewers, slice the squash in ¼ inch thick rounds (slice as evenly as possible so they cook evenly). Slice the bell pepper into 2 inch squares. Quarter the red onion, then separate the layers. Skewer the vegetables in a pattern onto the wooden sticks (ex - zucchini, red pepper, onion, yellow squash, mushroom...then repeat). Continue skewering the vegetables until they are all on the kabobs sticks. Set in a large, deep pan.
- Use a pastry brush or grill brush to apply about 3-4 tablespoons of marinade/dressing to the vegetable kabobs. Coat all sides. Sprinkle with salt/pepper to taste.
- Place the skewers on the grill (mine was heated to around 400 degrees F) for about 6-8 minutes, turning half way through the cooking process. Remove from the grill and place on a serving dish.
- To assemble the bowls, add a scoop of farro pasta salad to a bowl/plate. Top with 1-2 vegetable skewers (you can remove the vegetables from the skewers and serve without them as well - I'd recommend this if you are serving children!). Serve with additional dressing if desired. Enjoy!