As our Learning Garden transitions from Spring to Summer, we are cooking with our favorite bright, tender and earthy spring vegetables as much as possible. In this Spring Vegetable Orzo Salad, asparagus, peas, radishes and spinach balance one another in crunchiness and tenderness, spiciness and sweetness.
What takes this recipe to the next level is the arugula pistou. Pistou is a cold sauce, similar to pesto, but without nuts and cheese. In this recipe, the pistou complements the orzo and vegetables with a pleasant lemony, peppery bite. The 44 kindergarten, first and second graders from Albany (that visited us on the farm last week) would definitely agree that it is delicious!
Spring Orzo Salad with Arugula Pistou
For the Orzo
1 cup orzo
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
½ cup peas, freshly shelled or frozen
½ cup radishes, thinly sliced
1 cup spinach or other green, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lemon, juiced
2 teaspoons lemon zest
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 bunch chives, finely chopped
Edible flowers for garnish such as chive blossoms or nasturtium, optional
For the Arugula Pistou
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 t lemon zest
3 T lemon juice
½ t kosher salt
4 packed cups arugula
2 packed cups basil
6 T olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
- Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Put the orzo in a medium bowl, add boiling water to the surface of the grains and let it stand for about 15 minutes, just until tender. Drain and press out any remaining water and toss with a couple pinches of salt. Set aside. While the orzo cooks, prepare the pistou, vegetables, and dressing.
- For the pistou: In a food processor, pulse garlic with lemon juice, lemon zest and kosher salt until finely chopped. Add arugula and basil and pulse again. With the mixer running, add the olive oil in a slow and steady stream. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed until desired consistency. Adjust lemon, salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add garlic and saute until fragrant. Add asparagus, peas, radishes, and greens and saute lightly until tender.
- For the dressing, whisk the lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil together and season with salt and pepper.
- To the orzo, add sauteed vegetables and chives. Toss with a big splash of the dressing. Taste and add more dressing if needed. Adjust the seasoning as well at this point. Garnish with the remaining chives, edible flowers and a small dollop of pistou and serve.