Do gloomy winter days have you longing for a bit of sunshine? Then this brightly-hued Orzo with Fennel, Edamame, and Pineapple is the side dish for you. The combination may sound a bit strange but trust me it works. To create this recipe I took inspiration from two separate sources. First, a simple salad of fennel and pineapple I got from the deli case of a local store. I thought the combination of the fennel paired with the juicy fresh pineapple really worked. A day later I got the March/April Clean Eating Magazine and there was a recipe for a side dish with orzo, orange and fennel (plus green onion and feta), in a basic vinaigrette that sounded good. I thought that putting some of the main components of each together with a jazzed up dressing of my own would make a healthy, refreshing side dish. Also a side dish that would be perfect for the new monthly blog event Side Dish Showdown created and hosted by my good friend Reeni from Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice. This month's showdown theme is "Anything Goes" and this dish goes especially well with chicken or fish.
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
1 package (12 oz) orzo, preferably whole wheat
dressing (see recipe below)
1 medium to large fennel bulb, cored and sliced thinly
2 Tbsp fennel fronds, chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked, shelled edamame
2 cups chopped pineapple, fresh or canned in its own juice (reserve juice for dressing)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp pineapple juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp ground pepper
sea salt to taste
Cook orzo according to package directions, drain and place in a large bowl. Add dressing, mix and allow to cool. Add sliced fennel, fennel fronds, edamame and pineapple to orzo and toss gently until well mixed. Serve at room temp or chill in fridge.
Combine olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, pineapple juice, Dijon, honey and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Taste and add sea salt to taste.
Notes/Results: Excellent! The flavors and textures go together really well and it is an easy healthy dish that is pretty to look at. Since both fennel and pineapple are perennial, it works well at room temperature and is delicious chilled, this side dish can be made and served year-round. My only "issue" is that I wanted to use my favorite whole wheat orzo in it for the extra fiber, and both places I can usually find it were out of stock, so I was stuck using regular orzo. :-( It was of course still delicious, but I would definitely use the whole grain orzo next time. Since I am being dairy-free, I chose not to put in the feta that the Clean Eating recipe uses but if you want cheese, either feta or a tangy goat cheese would work well in this dish. You could also add other veggies or some herbs too. I liked the additions I made to the dressing--the Dijon, honey, pineapple juice and lemon added a good layer of flavor. With the fiber, vitamin C, potassium and manganese in the fennel, the fiber, protein and other good things in the edamame, and the vitamin C and fiber in the pineapple, (Whoa--whole lotta fiber going on there!) this is a nutritionally packed dish and a keeper recipe for sure!
It wouldn't be a side dish without a main dish so I paired the orzo with some Barramundi, prepared picatta-style, with olive oil, garlic, lemon and capers. I have not cooked or even eaten barramundi, (a mild, white fish from the coasts of Australia and Southeast Asia), but I heard about it on Dr. Oz ;-) and wanted to try it. Dr. Oz called it one of his "5 super foods to eat now" and I have a Pavlovian response to the term "super foods"--I get all excited when I hear it and I must try them. (Yes, I know I am a geek...admitting it is the first step). Dr. Oz said that the barramundi is a vegetarian fish, dining on planktan instead of other smaller fish so it has lower levels of mercury and it also has "higher omega-3 levels than salmon." In researching it a bit for this post, it appears that Dr. Oz may have been a little too enthusiastic in his declarations. A few sources I read said it would be more accurate to state that although it is carnivorous by nature, the fish can eat and thrive on a mostly vegetarian diet (sounds like me!), so depending on how your barramundi is raised (quality farmed barramundi is usually fed a mostly vegetarian diet), that first claim may or may not be completely true. Also it appears that the barramundi has comparable levels of omega-3s to wild salmon, but it does have much higher levels than any other white fish. Super food or not, I was still happy to find it frozen, from a reputable supplier at my local grocery store and give it a try. It is a good, basic mild-tasting white fish and worked well sauteed with the seasonings. I wouldn't seek it out to eat all of the time but it was a nice change. (That was probably WAY more than you ever wanted to know about barramundi--see geek comment above!).
A delicious dinner with a showdown-worthy side dish. You can check out this month's Side Dish Showdown entries by going to Reeni's site and following the links (here) and she'll also be doing a round-up at the end of the month.