Friday, September 20, 2013

Vegan Herbed Orzo Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

Nothing in the world reminds me of my first winter in California so much as the smell of meyer lemon. I had read about meyer lemons but never tasted, or even seen, one until I moved here. For the first few months after we moved, with basically just a car full of clothes and Nate's computer, I would endlessly scroll through Craigslist's "free" section to see if there was anything we could use. One day, someone listed meyer lemons, fresh from their own tree.

Nate and I drove over and sure enough, there was a massive pile of meyer lemons on a tarp in their yard. I took about 20, made my first batch of limoncello, and discovered that there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the meyer lemon is the best smelling thing in the entire universe.

Meyer lemons are a little sweeter than a regular lemon - they're actually a cross-breed between a lemon and a mandarin orange. They are also juicier than a regular lemon and a little darker and oh, God, the's floral, citrusy, and sweet, and the juice and zest are the perfect addition to dressings and vinaigrettes, like the one I made today.

Salad for lunch is something of a cliche but this particular salad has a few special ingredients, including meyer lemon, that make it more exciting.

One addition to this salad that makes it stand out is a blend of clover and radish sprouts. They add an extra crunchy, earthy, peppery element to the dish. And they're adorable!

The tart meyer lemon vinaigrette pairs beautifully with sweet tomatoes, dark leafy greens, and slightly spicy sprouts. Pungent capers dot the salad, their briny flavor cutting through the toothsome orzo and keeping the dish light, zippy, and fresh - and making for the perfect lunch.

Vegan Herbed Orzo Salad with Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette


juice of 1 large meyer lemon, or 2 small meyer lemons
1 Tbsp meyer lemon zest
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1-2 tsp agave or maple syrup (depends on how tart your lemon is)
1 clove garlic, grated
1-2 T olive oil
1 T capers
dash of salt
a generous grind or two of fresh black pepper

1 cup orzo
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs - I used basil, mint, and parsely
2 Tbsp thinly sliced red onion
1/2 peeled chopped cucumber
1 medium tomato, chopped
4 cups mixed baby greens (I used baby swiss chard, baby savoy spinach, and regular baby spinach)
1/4 cup sprouts (such as alfalfa; I used a mix of radish and clover)

1. First, make your dressing. Whisk together the first seven ingredients, then slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking dressing vigorously. Stir in capers and season with salt and pepper. Place in refrigerator.
2. Heat the vegetable broth and water over high heat until boiling, then add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain the orzo and rinse under cold water. Toss with 2 Tbsp of the dressing and the chopped herbs, and refrigerate until cold.
3. Arrange mixed baby greens and sprouts on two plates. Drizzle each with some of the remaining dressing.
4. Toss cold orzo with the red onion, cucumber and tomato. Serve over the greens and sprouts, using remaining dressing if needed.

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