Saturday, June 20, 2009

Asparagus and Orzo Salad

I apologize for posting a second asparagus recipe in a row, but I am trying to take advantage of it while it's in season. Heidi of 101 Cookbooks recently wrote about this delicious "Orzo Super Salad", where asparagus featured prominently, so I had to make it for one of our healthy weeknight dinners. What makes this salad particularly tasty, in my opinion, is the delicate creaminess from the avocado, which nicely plays off the crunchiness of the asparagus and cucumber. (I skipped the broccoli though, since I have been out of my broccoli phase for a long time now and am not sure if and when I will come around to it again.) All in all, I have to say that expanding my horizon to warm salads has really opened up a whole new world of interesting and relatively healthy dinner options.

Asparagus and Orzo Salad
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1 cup dried orzo pasta
8-10 medium asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch segments
small handful of cilantro, chopped
1 small clove of garlic, mashed with a big pinch of salt and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
a small handful of sprouts
⅓ cup almonds, toasted
½ small cucumber, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 medium avocado, sliced into small pieces
¼ cup feta, crumbled

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and boil the orzo per package instructions. Avoid over-boiling, you want your orzo to be cooked through, but maintain structure. About 30 seconds before the orzo is finished cooking stir the asparagus into the orzo pot. Cook for the final 30 seconds, drain and run under a bit of cold water. Just long enough to stop the cooking.

2. In the meantime, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and more salt (if needed) into the dressing. Set aside.

3. When you are ready to serve the salad toss the orzo, asparagus, and cilantro with about half the dressing. Add more dressing if needed, and toss well. Now add the sprouts, almonds, cucumber, avocado, and feta. Very gently toss a couple of times to distribute those ingredients throughout the salad and serve.


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