Green Lemony Orzo with Avocado-Halloumi Pesto

green orzo top.jpgOrzo is my favourite shape of pasta. Because of it’s denser structure it absorbs more sauce, thus becoming creamy and wonderful without being overcooked. Nobody likes mushy pasta and with orzo it’s more difficult to mess up.

This recipe is my way of welcoming the summer. I know it’s still April and we still have a long way to go until June, but being a Cypriot, summer kind of starts in a few weeks. I crave all these fresh spring veggies at my local fruit shop and I love all these gorgeous, aromatic lemons on the trees.

green orzo.jpg

Lemon is the key to this wonderful vegetarian dish. The avocado pesto adds healthy creaminess and the halloumi’s saltiness balances the tanginess of the lemon {too many words ending with –ness but you are getting the point ;-)}. Cashews are so great and buttery. I prefer oven roasted cashews like the “Leivadiotis” brand as they contain no salt, plus they are crunchy and flavourful.

This dish is great eaten warm or at room temperature. In my case, straight out of the fridge.

For the Pesto

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 4 Tbs lemon juice
  • ¼ cup packed parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup packed mint leaves
  • ½ cup halloumi cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup “Leivadiotis” oven roasted cashews (green label)
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Orzo

  • 500 grams “Mitsides” Orzo
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 700 grams asparagus, peeled and chopped in about 4-5 cm pieces
  • 4 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbs “Leivadiotis” oven roasted cashews (green label), roughly chopped

Method

First make the Pesto by mixing all ingredients together in a blender until smooth.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the orzo for 10 minutes. Drain, but keep about a cup of the cooking water. Rinse orzo with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside until needed.

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook, stirring often, until crisp-tender and beginning to colour. Add the onions and garlic and cook a couple of minutes longer. Add peas and stir through. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour in the wine and let it evaporate for a minute or so. Add the cooked orzo and lower the heat. Add about ¼ cup of the orzo cooking water and cook stirring until orzo is cooked al dente. Add the pesto and take off the heat. Mix well. If pasta seems too dry add a bit more of the orzo cooking water. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Garnish with the lemon zest and cashews and serve.

 

 

 

 

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