Spring Orzo Salad with Fennel and Asparagus

Spring Orzo Salad with Fennel and Asparagus

Here in Utah, when people learn I’m from Boston, they often ask me why I don’t have a Boston accent. The truth is that neither of my parents grew up in New England, so the chances of me developing a Boston accent were pretty slim. Nate likes to tell me that my accent comes out after a few beers (bee-ahs!), but I say, psh. It’s probably just a mirroring thing. These days I probably have more of a Utah accent than anything – no big dill. (And for those of you wondering what a Utah accent is, that’s it right there.)

Well, I learned on Friday that I do have an accent, and it’s, um, not what I thought. My co-worker informed me, after much prefacing about how he liked the way I spoke, that my accent is Harvard valley girl. Oh, and that he’s mentioned this to other people we work with and they’ve confirmed it. What!

Well, I did not go to Harvard, nor did I grow up in any valley. I’m not exactly legally blond over here. I am forced to interpret the Harvard valley girl thing as something along the lines of “well brought-up but dumb” or “you say smart things but sound dumb saying them.” And they let me talk to clients… why? My mom was kind enough to offer her take as “smart but unpretentious.” But now I’m realizing “pretentious and dumb” is probably closer to a direct translation. Groan. Suffice it to say I will be speaking in a monotone at work for a few days! Like, totally.

Spring Orzo Salad with Fennel and Asparagus

This salad was inspired by one I had in Boston with Nate and my parents this past summer. The ingredients seem like an odd mix – fennel, asparagus, and grapefruit? – but they are somehow perfect together. I knew I’d have to recreate it for you. And I also knew I would have to wait until spring… because what was this salad doing on a September menu?! I’m really not sure, but I’m glad I got to try it. I had it for brunch with grilled swordfish and a bloody mary. Perfection.

Incidentally, if you eat fish, I highly recommend topping this salad with a grilled swordfish steak for a fresh spring meal. I was going to do just that, but got to the fish market at 5:23 to find they’d closed at 5:00. Boo. Anyway, a swordfish steak drizzled with lemon juice and then grilled to juicy perfection is pretty much heaven alongside this salad. Simple and fresh!

The fennel is really what makes this salad. Its lightly sweet licorice flavor adds interest and makes the whole thing memorable enough to be recreating months later. You might find it labeled “anise” in the produce section. Any ugly-looking bulb can be a little intimidating (to me at least), but just rinse it and thinly slice it from the bottom (using a mandolin is ideal) and you’re done. Produce lesson of the day!

Spring Orzo Salad with Fennel and Asparagus

Last but not least, my heart is in Boston today for the 118th running of the Boston marathon. Boston accent or no, I’ll be wearing my Boston Strong shirt, following friends’ bib numbers online, and hoping for a happier ending than last year. xoxo

5.0 from 2 reviews
Spring Orzo Salad with Fennel and Asparagus
Hands-on time
Cook time
Total time
Yields: 3-4 side servings
  • 1/2 cup uncooked orzo pasta
  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 grapefruits, supremed
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • sprinkle of salt and pepper
  1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add orzo, reduce heat, and simmer until tender. Drain (do not rinse!), pour into a bowl, and set aside until cooled to room temperature.
  2. Meanwhile, bring another pot of water to a boil. Add asparagus and simmer just 2-3 minutes, until bright green and crunchy-tender. Drain and rinse under cold water for about a minute. Place in a salad bowl along with the cooled orzo, fennel and red onion.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour over the salad and toss to coat. Top with grapefruit supremes. (They are more fragile, so I don't recommend tossing them.) Serve and enjoy!


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  1. says

    I always think it’s funny when people say we west coasters have an accent. Harvard Valley Girl is one I’ve never heard of but I can just hear it now! This salad is fantastic! So bright and beautiful! I’d love to enjoy it alongside a nice cold beee-yah! :D

  2. says

    Your accent descriptions have me LOL-ing this morning! I think that I have the plainest accent on Earth, but wish I had some Southern charm in my voice which is why I throw y’all’s in every once in a while ;) Valley girl accent or not, I still like you, hehe!

  3. says

    I’m a new reader to your blog, and I have to say, I love it! Your pics are beautiful, and the reading is fun. On this post, I have to say I love the asparagus – grapefruit combination. Looks like a must-try.

  4. says

    This is such a creative mixture of colors and flavors- exactlyyyy why spring and summer are my favorite seasons for food! And that’s too funny about the Valley Girl accent…I thought that was just a California thing!

  5. says

    Mmmmm … I am such a huge fan of salads – and really interesting ones always intrigue me! And inspire me! Grapefruit is a fave of mine and think putting it in a salad is sheer genius!
    So thankful the Boston marathon was such a huge success yesterday! :) I love accents – I think it’s fun to listen to different dialects and hear how the same words can be pronounced in different ways!

  6. Mom says

    Wow! I was just wondering what to make for dinner on this beautiful spring day. This is it! Thanks!
    And the marathon was GLORIOUS! Boston definitely reclaimed Patriots’ Day.

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