My Go-To Summer Side

Although I’m an autumn girl at heart, I do have a soft spot for summer food. Fresh produce and vibrant colors make cooking and eating more interesting. Our family built a raised bed last May and had more tomatoes than we could handle. This year, I decided early to purchase all the materials necessary for canning because I just KNEW that we’d have food to “put up” like my grandmother used to when I was little.

Unfortunately, I think my lax attitude toward garden maintenance at the end of last season pretty much sealed our fate for this year. It wasn’t long after our tomato plants started becoming bushy that they also began to show signs of blight. We lost our entire raised bed this year and have no tomatoes to show for it.

The ONLY plus to this travesty is that I don’t feel guilty about buying tiny organic grape or cherry tomatoes at the market. That’s a good thing too because without those, I wouldn’t have been able to make, fall in love with and memorize the recipe for this stellar side dish/entree.

I found this recipe via Pinterest that linked me to the original site featuring it. What’s not to love? Orzo–good! Lemon–good! Tomatoes–good! Asparagus–good! The first time we made this, my daughter and I were beside ourselves with how great it tasted. It even held up to reheating which meant I remembered to take my lunch to work every day while it lasted. Even my husband for whom green vegetables are surely Satan’s handmaidens ate it and liked it.

By being ready in minutes and nice enough for company this recipe moves to staple status. The cheese is a nice touch, but not a requirement.

Lemon Orzo Salad with Asparagus and Tomatoes

12 oz. orzo
1 bunch fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 lemon, zested and juiced
4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbs. fresh parsley, minced
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano*

Bring 2 large pots of water to boil.  Add a big pinch of salt in each.

To one pot, add asparagus and blanch, about 2 to 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of your asparagus.  Place blanched asparagus in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and keep them green.

To the second pot, add the orzo.  Cook per package instructions.  When tender, drain and place in a large bowl.  Add blanched asparagus and tomato halves.

Mix olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper in a small bowl.  Stir into orzo and vegetables.  Stir in parsley and grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

This can be served warm, room temperature or cold.

Thank you for sharing this awesome recipe, Adrienne!


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