When I think of New York City, images of kamikaze taxi drivers and business women running for the subway in their sneakers may come to mind. However, while New Yorkers like to work and play hard, they also seek out moments of relative quiet in the bustling city. When my husband and I lived in Manhattan, one of our favorite places to go on a lazy summer day was Central Park. With the roads blocked off to traffic, New Yorkers cruise around the park by every means of locomotion – rollerblades, bicycles, and skateboards. Walk far enough into the park, through the Strawberry Fields memorial for John Lennon, past the steel drum musicians, and around Bethesda Fountain, and you will come to a rather innocuous hillside beside the lake.
Strewn blankets dot the grass and are filled with picnicking families, hungover club go-ers, and stock brokers who have abandoned their power suits for the day. While some are chatting or running after toddlers, most are singing along to the dulcit tones of Dave, the Guitar Man, one of New York City’s finest treasures. His repertoire is filled with singable classics from James Taylor, The Beatles, and Elton John, to name a few. I cannot begin to count how many afternoons we spent lying on that hillside, drifting in and out of lazy consciousness. I was thrilled to find that Dave, the Guitar Man (real name David Ippolito) is still gracing the citizens of Manhattan with his music. He even has several CDs, one of them nostalgically titled The People on the Hill. Thanks, Dave, for the memories.
Our days lying on that grassy knoll often included a picnic lunch. With a bagful of fresh cherries and a big container of pasta salad, we lazily snacked away the afternoon. This version of pasta is based on a classic BLT sandwich, with chicken added for a dose of lean protein and spinach substituted for the lettuce.
In a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat, cook 6 strips of bacon until crunchy. Set aside on a piece of paper towel to drain. When cool, crumble the bacon (not too small) and reserve.
Pour out all but 2 teaspoons of the bacon grease from the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and add 2 chicken breasts that are cut into 1-inch pieces. Saute until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook one package (16 oz.) orzo until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a serving bowl.
Tear fresh spinach leaves into bite-sized pieces to total 1 cup (packed). Cut 8 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes in half.
Gently stir the chicken, bacon, spinach, and tomatoes into the orzo.
In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 1/2 teaspoons honey, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. While whisking constantly, slow pour in 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil until combined.
Pour the vinaigrette over the orzo and gently toss.
Chiffonade (roll and thinly slice) 6 large fresh basil leaves and stir into the pasta salad. Serve.
Other pasta salad recipes:
Cookin’ Canuck’s Mint-Basil Chicken Pasta Salad with Tomatoes, Asparagus & Feta Cheese
FatFree Vegan Kitchen’s Artichoke Pesto Pasta Salad
The Perfect Pantry’s Spicy Asian Grilled Chicken & Pasta Salad
The Pioneer Woman’s Sundried Tomato Pasta Salad
My Baking Addiction’s Greek Orzo Pasta Salad
Chicken BLT (or Bacon, Spinach & Tomato) Pasta Salad
6 slices bacon
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
16 oz. orzo pasta
1 cup (packed) fresh spinach leaves, torn into bite-sized pieces
8 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp honey
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 large basil leaves, chiffonaded (rolled and thinly sliced)
In a large nonstick skillet set over medium heat, cook bacon until crunchy. Set aside on a piece of paper towel to drain. When cool, crumble the bacon (not too small) and reserve.
Pour out all but 2 teaspoons of the bacon grease from the pan, increase the heat to medium-high, and add chicken. Saute until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook orzo until al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water. Transfer to a serving bowl. Gently stir the chicken, bacon, spinach, and tomatoes into the orzo.
In a medium bowl, whisk together red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper. While whisking constantly, slow pour in olive oil until combined.
Pour the vinaigrette over the orzo and gently toss. Stir the basil into the pasta salad. Serve.