An old friend of mine from Aquavit, Dennis Chrysanthopoulos, was one of the first people to introduce me to Astoria, the Greek enclave in Queens, New York. One ingredient always on hand in his household growing up, Dennis says, is feta, a salt cured cheese that should be aged for at least 40 days. I like to meld feta and other Greek flavors with lobster and orzo, an Italian rice-shaped pasta traditionally used in soups, to create a light and lovely pasta salad.
2 c orzo
2 1 1/2-lb lobsters
2 medium eggplants
4 cloves garlic, sliced
6 tbsp olive oil
1/2 vanilla pod, split in half and seeded
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tbsp white wine
1/2 c feta cheese, crumbled
2 egg yolks
8 basil leaves, torn
freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the lobsters and cook until the shells are bright red, about 5 minutes. Strain and let cool. When cool enough to handle, crack open the claws, knuckles and tail and remove the meat. Slice meat into 1/2-inch pieces. Place in a medium bowl.
Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and brush the cut side of the eggplant with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Top with the garlic slices. Place on a baking sheet, cut side down, and roast for 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and when cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh from the eggplant. Chop and combine with lobster claws and vanilla bean.
Heat the 3 tablespoons olive oil n a large pot. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes, then add the cooked orzo and white wine. Bring to a simmer; cook for 3 minutes. Stir in the lobster meat, vanilla seeds, eggplant and 2 tablespoons of water, cook until heated through. Remove from the heat and fold in the feta, egg yolks and basil. Stir well.
To serve, divide the orzo between 4 bowls.