At this time every year, asparagus lovers in the Midwest cheer for the abundance of fresh asparagus. We flock to the farmers markets to buy from growers like Untiedt’s, Lorence’s and Appleberry’s and we even celebrate the vegetable with Spargelfest (which starts today). I love cooking with asparagus as it cooks quickly and can be prepared in so many ways. It is great in salads like this one using crunchy sunflower seeds and tangy lemon juice.
This salad is full of brightness and would be perfect for a graduation party or potluck. The flavors meld as the salad sits, so it’s a great dish to prepare ahead of time, but is just as good served warm.
Asparagus Orzo Salad
8 oz. dried orzo pasta
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
1 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 (15 oz) can artichokes, drained and roughly chopped
1 (8.5 oz) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, julienned and drained
1 lemon, juice and zest
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Cook orzo according to package directions. The last two minutes of cooking, add asparagus (or steam in a separate pan for two minutes). Remove asparagus and drain pasta. Set aside.
Heat a skillet to medium and add one tablespoon of olive oil. Add shallots and garlic and sauté until fragrant, about one minute. Transfer to a large bowl and add asparagus, orzo, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and lemon zest. Toss to combine.
In a glass jar, shake lemon juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper until emulsified. Drizzle salad with half of dressing and toss. Add remaining dressing as needed. Top with feta and sunflower seeds and serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold.