Thursday, February 25, 2010

Orzo with Fennel, Edamame, and Pineapple: A Sunny Side Dish for a Winter's Day

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.

Orzo with Fennel, Edamame, and Pineapple

by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Serves 6-8)

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.



  1. I am generally inclined to distrust anything that Dr. Oz says. Mainly because my mother frequently calls me about things that she hears him say. Most of which she misinterprets (likely) and so I am left with the impression that he knows nothing about anything. Probably a gross overstatement. Who knows.


    Thanks so much for the bday wishes! This orzo looks fantastic. I love all of the components you've added in.

  2. I would definitely add the feta - that would make it a perfect main course salad for me! It looks lovely.

    I think barramundi is over rated. It often tastes a bit muddy.

  3. What a great salad - such an unusual combination - you are so creative! Very fresh and healthy looking.
    I have yet to find ww orzo here, but I will keep an eye out. Barramundi sounds like a tasty fish, I wonder if it gets as far north as Canada. Well, we always have salmon and trout. ;-)

  4. Deb, this is definitely a great salad! And all of us on the "mainland" need a little sunshine on our recent harsh winter days. Many thanks...

  5. Love the colors in this dish. I really like the dressing. I could see using it in other dishes.

  6. I love everything you put into this dish. I'll bet it's delicious.

  7. So this is the salad you were referring to on Facebook. It does sound a bit odd, but intriguing as well.

    Pineapple always makes me think of the sun!

  8. This totally looks like my kind of salad. I love fennel and orange together, but this combo really looks worth trying. We have fennel in the shops right now - very expensive, but hang the expense I am going to try this.

  9. We're in the middle of another blizzard here today and its supposed to keep snowing right through tomorrow night. So, yes, I'm ready for a bowl of sunshine! Love the unexpected use of pineapple in this dish. It sounds delicious!

  10. LOL - Aren't we all food geeks?

    This is a perfect recipe for side dish showdown. I love everything in this, especially the edamame. I imagine it is very vibrant and fresh tasting.

  11. You have no idea how bright and refreshing this looks to me right now! It's been snowing for three days - and hasn't stopped yet. I would love this with a nice piece of fish alongside. Thanks for sending it to the Showdown!

  12. I love this combination! Pineapples really give a sunny feel to the side dish.

  13. oooh....I need to give this one a try! I have some edamame that I need to use and didn't know what I was gonna do with it. Now I know! Thanks :)


Mahalo for visiting and for leaving a comment. I love reading them and they mean a lot!

All advertising, spam, inappropriate (or just plain rude) comments will be promptly deleted. I do appreciate your right to free speech and to your opinion but I'm not into mean, rude, or mean snarky (non-mean snarky is just fine!) ;-)