I kind of failed at food last week. I took a “cooking vacation,” if you will. I went out to eat, grabbed takeout, or made avocado sandwiches literally every night. With everything going on this summer, I just hit a wall where I felt overwhelmed and like I had no time. When this happens, it’s not only fast meals that I crave, but carbs. I just want all the carbs.
When I finally found myself with some time on Sunday, I decided I better step foot in the kitchen and see if I could get back in the groove and make something substantial. While I had no intention of ending my carb bender, I thought adding greens and protein to the mix might be helpful for my dwindling energy level.
Enter beluga lentils. A teeny tiny protein powerhouse that pairs well with just about anything. I figured lentils, broccoli rabe, and a miso-sesame sauce juuuust might bring my energy back up and get my cooking shoes back on.
To be clear, I would be piling all these ingredients on top of pasta, of course…we’re taking baby steps here, people.
Sesame Orzo with Broccoli Rabe
Adapted from The Food Network’s Miso Sesame Dressing.
- 3/4 cup beluga lentils
- 1 1/3 cup whole wheat orzo (or regular orzo, if you prefer)
- 1 bunch broccoli rabe, roughly chopped
- 4 green onions, chopped
- 1/4 cup white miso (Simply fermented soybeans…be not afraid)
- 3 tablespoons warm water
- 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste)
- 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds (1/2 tbsp sprinkled on top of each plate)
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil for the beluga lentils. While it’s heating up, sprinkle the beluga lentils on a white surface and pick through, getting rid of any discolored ones. This is important, because teeny tiny rocks can sometimes hide in lentil batches, even if you don’t buy them in the bulk section. I may or may not know this from experience. I also may or may not be missing part of a tooth. Let’s move on.
Rinse the lentils under cold water for a minute or two, then dump in the boiling water. Boil for 5 minutes, then let simmer for another 10 or so. They’re ready when they’ve doubled in size and have a texture similar to other beans.
In a separate pot, boil some salted water for your orzo. Add a little extra water than you’d usually use, because you will be adding the broccoli rabe to the pot eventually.
A note on chopping the broccoli rabe: Throw away the stems that are below the leaves, and then chop everything else into about 1-inch pieces. You don’t want huge leaves or florets, since orzo is a small pasta. Okay, carry on.
After the orzo cooks for 4 minutes, stir in the broccoli rabe. It will seem like you have way too much broccoli rabe for the amount of orzo and water, but fear not, just stir it in and it will wilt, sink, and not disturb the pasta. Let the pasta and the broccoli rabe cook in the boiling water for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is al dente.
While that’s cooking, use a food processor (or a whisk and arm strength) to combine the miso, water, tahini, soy sauce, garlic, sugar, vinegar and lemon juice. Slowly add the peanut and sesame oils. If you have a food processor, do this while pulsing the other ingredients so it thickens up. If you do not have a food processor, briskly whisk as you add the oils.
Combine the pasta, broccoli rabe, lentils and green onions in a bowl, then stir in the sauce. Divide the pasta onto four plates, and finish each with a sprinkle of 1/2 tablespoon of sesame seeds.
The creamy, tangy, and slightly sweet dressing is a perfect complement to the earthy broccoli rabe and nutty whole wheat orzo. The sprinkle of seeds highlights the sesame flavor throughout, while providing a nice little crunch to each bite.
It’s a protein packed, flavorful dish that you can easily adjust to your liking. Would you rather use regular broccoli? Go for it. Want some more veggies? Throw in some mushrooms and bell peppers. Not a fan of lentils? Add a different protein, like tofu or even chicken, if you’re into that sorta thing.
If you’re feeling crazy, you can switch up the carbs too. Grab some cavatappi, shells, penne, or whatever you’re craving.
After having this for my Sunday lunch I felt worlds better than I had in days. I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with energy, but to be fair I doubt that anyone’s ever used the phrase “bouncing off the walls with energy” in reference to me. Anyway, I digress.
My takeaway from this cooking vacation: If you’re moving slowly while the world is moving fast around you, make something that gives you some protein and nutrients.
…and carbs. Don’t you even think about forgetting the carbs.