An orzo salad with grilled zucchini and corn, bright cherry tomatoes, fresh basil & mint, creamy goat cheese, and a homemade avocado pesto. It’s a fun, fresh, and vibrant dish perfect for summertime.
Heelllooooo first day of summer……
which means, its officially grill season!
There is nothing I love more than a delicious grilled dinner. The grill imparts this delicious, smoky flavor that elevates any dish. Grilling is also a quick way to cook dinner and prevent any mess in your kitchen!
My husband and I take full advantage of grilling season. We have a quaint backyard outside our old Chicagoan brownstone. It’s enclosed by a green ivy covered fence and has a small cobblestone patio (it’s a little rustic, but it gets the job done). I wanted to make the backyard a warm, inviting space, so I arranged plenty of seating, decorated the patio furniture with bright colored pillows, and set up hanging lanterns to brighten up the space at night.
We love to sit outside on our patio, enjoy a summer cocktail, and heat up the grill. It’s our favorite summertime ritual.
We grill burgers, steaks, pork chops, chicken. You name it, we’ve grilled it!
But meat is not the only thing you can grill. You can also grill veggies to amp up their flavor profile.
That’s exactly what I did in my latest creation. I grilled up some favorite summertime veggies to add to an orzo salad. I paired it with a creamy avocado pesto to use up those beautiful fresh herbs. It’s a simple but elegant summertime dish.
Let’s get to cooking.
First, we will make the avocado pesto. In a small food processor, add nuts and sea salt and process until the nuts resemble gravel. You can use any nuts you prefer and have on hand: walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, or pumpkin seeds. All work beautifully.
After the nuts are processed, add in the fresh herbs and blend until they are combined with the nuts. Add in the remaining ingredients, except water, and process until smooth. Slowly add in the water, a little at a time, until you reach your desired consistency. I used about a half cup. The water helps thin the pesto out slightly so it is not too thick.
The great thing about this pesto is it is dairy and oil free. The fat and richness comes from the wholesome nuts and avocado, so its adding good fat to the dish. It also gets its flavor from the fresh herbs and lemon juice instead of cheese or oil. It’s a super healthy and flavorful sauce that you can add to just about anything!
Next, we will grill up the veggies. I recommend going outside to grill and enjoying the beautiful weather. But if you do not have an outside grill or decide to make this dish on a rainy day, you can also use a grill pan inside.
The zucchini should be cut into relatively thick slices so they don’t become mushy when you grill them. Add a little bit of olive oil to the zucchini and grill for 2-3 minutes a side, so they become charred and slightly softened. Add a dash of salt immediately after removing them from the grill.
To grill the corn, add a drizzle of olive oil to the ears of corns and charr each side for 2-3 minutes. You want some of the kernels developing those dark grilled marks. The charred bits add this wonderful smokiness to the dish!
Finally, it’s time to assemble. For a pretty presentation, add a smear of the avocado pesto to the bottom of the plate. It’s sort of a fun, chef-like move that will be sure to impress your guest. To create the smear, add a dollop of the pesto to the plate and use a spoon to swoosh it to one side of the plate.
Once you have your pretty smear, top with the cooked orzo, grilled veggies, cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and fresh herbs. The recipe should make 4-5 small plates.
If you aren’t feeling the smear, you can also mix the pesto with the orzo and add the pesto orzo to the bottom of the plate and top with the remaining ingredients.
This salad is perfect for a healthy, light lunch, a side dish before dinner, or as a complete meal (just add some fresh grilled fish or chicken).
It’s fresh and vibrant, has that great smoky flavor from the grill, and is easy to make. The perfect meal for summertime!
Grilled Summer Veggie Orzo Salad with Avocado Pesto
A orzo salad with grilled zucchini and corn, bright cherry tomatoes, fresh basil & mint, creamy goat cheese, and a homemade avocado pesto.
- 1 small avocado
- 1/2 cup packed basil
- 1/4 cup mint
- 1/4 cup nut of choice walnuts, pumpkin or pistachios work great
- juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- dash of red pepper flakes
- 1/4-1/2 cup water
- 1 zucchini cut in thick slices
- 2 ears of corn
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1/4 cup goat cheese
- fresh basil and mint for topping
- 1 cup orzo cooked*
To make the pesto, add the nuts and salt to a food processor until it resembles a course sand. Add in basil and mint and processor until the herbs are mixed well with the nuts. Add in remaining ingredients, except water, and process until smooth. Slowly add in water until you reach your desired consistency.
Pre-heat your grill or pre-heat a grill pan on your stove. Grill the zucchini about 20-3 minutes a side, so they develop grill mark and become more tender. Grill the corn on each side so it develops char bits all around. Take off heat, let cool slightly, and cut kernels off the cobb.
Assemble the salad. For a pretty presentation**, smear a dollop of the avocado pesto on a bottom of the plate. Top with the cooked orzo, then grilled veggies and fresh tomatoes, and finally goat cheese, Garnish with fresh herbs.
Serve and enjoy!
*I recommend cooking the orzo a minute less than package instructions so it does not become mushy.
**To serve, you can also mix the orzo and pesto together first and then dollop the pesto orzo in a bowl and then top with remaining ingredients.