People often think that vegans face a limited menu. But I’m constantly inspired to cook new recipes and try new ingredients by reading cookbooks and watching cooking shows. I’ve shared with you all before my unabashed adoration of Italian chef Giada De Laurentiis and her show Giada at Home. My Sundays always start by lounging around in my pajamas, watching her whip up perfect dishes in her perfect kitchen. This particular episode, she prepared a lovely Fregola Salad with Broccoli and Cipollini Onions. And much to my delight, it was almost vegan!
Fregola is rather expensive and hard to find so I used delicate orzo pasta instead. While a pasta, orzo is more reminiscent of rice in size and texture. The only other changes I made to Giada’s recipe were using yellow onions in lieu of cipollini, omitting the Parmesan cheese and substituting agave nectar for honey.
Flavorfully light yet hearty, this is an incredibly balanced recipe perfect for a side dish or an entree. The crunchy broccoli contrasts the creamy cannellini beans and pasta. Pungent garlic, onions and chives add zest. The sweetness of the agave nectar, which is slightly less viscose than honey, balances the acidity of the lemons. With the bold green hues of the broccoli and the chives, this dish will please your eyes as well as your appetite.
12 ounces orzo pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion (about 1 1/4 cups), diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound broccoli, cut into small florets
1/3 cup water
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Salt & pepper to taste
2 large lemons, zested and juiced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup chopped fresh chives
1. Cook orzo pasta according to directions; takes approximately 10 minutes to cook. Set pasta aside in a serving bowl.
2. Heat olive oil in large pan on medium-high heat. Sauté onions until golden, about 10 minutes.
3. Add garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.
4. Add broccoli and sauté for 1 minute. Add water and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for about 4 minutes or until the broccoli is slightly tender.
5. Add cannellini beans and cook for 1 minute.
6. Add broccoli/bean/onion mixture to pasta.
7. Dressing: In a medium-sized bowl, add lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, agave nectar, salt and pepper. Whisk together. Add chives. Stir together.
8. Pour dressing over orzo pasta and veggies. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.