Lemon Sesame Tuna & Chickpea Orzo Salad

Ingredients:

for the salad:

8 oz dried orzo, cooked to package instructions and drained
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 bunch green onions, diced
3 3-oz pouches Safe Catch Elite Wild Tuna
15-oz canned chickpeas, drained
3 oz crumbled feta
1/4 cup roughly chopped Italian parsley
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
1 (jarred, drained) fire-roasted red pepper, chopped
1/3 cup halved kalamata olives

for the dressing:

1 tablespoon tahini
juice on one lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
zest of one lemon
salt
freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Toss together the salad ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over salad, toss to evenly distribute.

My thoughts:
I know I can’t be the only one who really doesn’t like winter. Sure snow is pretty for a few minutes but it doesn’t distract me from everything being cold and dead. The new year in our hemisphere really should start in April when everything is coming alive again. 
Possibly the worst part of this time of the year is that pretty much nothing is in-season in the mid-Atlantic. We can get citrus from warmer climes which is nice but the vegetable assortment is downright dismal. It makes it difficult to get excited about making meals. To re-energize myself I try to give myself challenges. Can I use the few things that are reliably good in the winter and bunch of pantry-stable items to create lunches that I would actually be excited about eating?
The answer is, happily, yes. I always have tuna on hand but I try to be careful where it is sourced. Safe Catch Elite Wild Tuna pouches (in the interest of full disclosure, Safe Catch provided me with some samples to try but aren’t paying me anything for this recipe) are just pure, wild, sustainably-caught tuna with low levels of mercury and don’t need to be drained. Surely I’m not the only person who lacks the hand strength to drain tuna easily? I also like that I can stack them in my “pantry” aka the old wooden icebox I use for food storage and they take up a lot less space than the cans.

I love this tahini-based goddess dressing (and it’s Aldi and Trader Joe’s branded dupes) and often add it to tuna salad. Since I had actual tahini on hand, I took inspiration from the bottled dressing and made my own sesame kissed dressing to pour over the hearty salad. The tuna comes out of the pouch nicely broken up so it mixes well with orzo, which the chickpeas providing some texture in addition to extra protein. I added some feta for some tangy richness, salty olives, crisp celery and sharp red onions to round out the flavors and provide a lot of texture variety–key in any good cold pasta salad.

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