Thursday, July 7, 2011

Orzo Salad with Whole Wheat Orzo, Broccoli Pesto, Lemon, Avocado, and Creme Fraiche

I was beyond pleased to see big, green heads of broccoli at the farmer's market this past weekend as it has been one of my favorite vegetables my entire life (yes, I was a kid who not only tolerated, but actually requested broccoli). I'll scarf it down steamed, roasted, or raw, but also love it in stir-fries and pasta dishes, like this one. In this orzo salad you not only get to bite into big, crunchy mouthfuls of fresh broccoli florets, but get to enjoy the flavor blended into every bite in the rich and creamy broccoli pesto. While traditional pesto is made with basil, it can be adapted to use a wide variety of herbs and vegetables, including broccoli, a fresh and delightful change of pace. If pine nuts are too expensive, you don't like them, or get pine mouth, walnuts are also a great choice, but you can pretty much use any nut or seed that you like with broccoli. If you can't find any creme fraiche, plain Greek or regular yogurt would make a fine substitute, though sour cream might also be used in a pinch. This salad packs a ton of energy and nutrition and makes a great lunch, light dinner, and is a great dish to bring on a picnic.

Orzo Salad
with Whole Wheat Orzo, Broccoli Pesto, Lemon, Avocado, and Creme Fraiche
from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson
serves 6

Fine-grained sea salt
1 1/2 cups/9 oz/255 g whole wheat orzo
5 cups/11 oz/310 g raw broccoli cut into small florets and stems
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2/3 cup/3.5 oz/100 g pine nuts, toasted
1/3 cup/0.5 oz/15 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup/60 mL extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup/2 oz/60 g creme fraiche
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 small ripe avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously, add the orzo, and cook according to package instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain well again.

2. In the meantime, cook the broccoli. Bring 3/4 cup/180 mL water to a boil in a large pot. Add a big pinch of salt and stir in the broccoli. Cover and cook for 1 minute, just long enough to take off the raw edge. Quickly drain the broccoli in a strainer and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Drain well and set aside.

3. To make the pesto, combing 2 cups /7 oz/200g of the cooked broccoli, the garlic, most of the pine nuts, the Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons of the lemon juice in a food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil and creme fraiche and pulse until smooth.

4. Just before serving, toss the orzo and remaining cooked broccoli florets with about two-thirds of the broccoli pesto and lemon zest. Thin with a bit of warm water if you like, then taste and adjust if needed. You might want to add a bit more salt or an added drizzle of lemon juice, or more pesto. Gently fold in the avocado. Turn out into a bowl or onto a platter and top with the remaining pine nuts.

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