It’s asparagus season. And I have to admit, roasted with olive oil and salt is pretty much my fall back preparation for them. When the asparagus is finally coming in locally, you don’t need much more than that. Usually. If you want to feel like you ate a complete meal, try this Lemony Orzo with Asparagus, Chicken and Spinach. It uses those roasted spears as a topper and answers the question, “What can I do to liven up boring old pasta salad?” all in one fell swoop.
Orzo is about as cheap and cheerful as you can get. In this salad, half a box stretches to feed 4-6, and even if you don’t have a crowd, it does just fine in the fridge for 2-3 days for lunch and leftovers. I’m entertaining the idea of putting the couple of scoops we have left in a little chicken broth for soup.
The not-so-secret secret is to start with well-salted water for the orzo and to dress it with lemon when it’s still warmish so each grain soaks up the juice. It’s a flavor build. If you want to keep it vegetarian, you could very easily use a can or two of garbanzo beans in place of the chicken. Give them their own drizzle with olive oil and toss ’em in.
What about those slivers of rhubarb? While everyone else would probably go radish, I’m obsessed lately with the sour tang of raw rhubarb in salad. It adds a fantastic zing, just make sure to slice them really really thinly.
Lemony Orzo with Asparagus and SpinachPrint Recipe
- 8 oz. asparagus, trimmed
- 3 T. olive oil, divided
- 8 oz. orzo
- ~ 2 c. shredded roasted chicken (from 1 1/2 chicken breast halves)
- 2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 T. lemon zest (from about 2 small lemons)
- 2 large handfuls fresh spinach, rinsed and spun dry
- 1/2 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese
- kosher salt
- finely sliced rhubarb for garnish (optional)
Preheat oven to 400F.
Meanwhile, cook orzo in well-salted water according until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse briefly with cold water. While still warm-ish, stir in lemon juice and lemon zest. Set aside.
Put asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 T. olive oil. Toss to coat. Season with salt. Roast fat pencil-sized asparagus for about 7 minutes until crisp-tender. Let cool. Slice into thirds.
In a large bowl, combine orzo, chicken, spinach, parmesan cheese, and remaining olive oil. Season to taste with salt.
Pour the orzo mixture onto a large platter to serve. Arrange asparagus on top and garnish with rhubarb, if using.