Spring Pesto Picnic Salad
I'm pretty sure with the time change we all simultaneously came down with a severe case of spring fever. Am I wrong?! That extra bit of lingering light at the end of the day and a slightly warmer afternoon has set our sights on the joys of the seasons to come...and more exciting: outdoor get togethers!
Yes, it's nearly time for all that BBQing, picnic-timing and sunshine gallivanting that you've been pining for since the last cold snap that nearly, well... snapped you. We've got this. We can do it - yes even you in the mid west, I promise relief is coming in the form of warmth...and in this case delicious picnic salads.
The start of any season is an exciting time to explore the farmers market (or your own garden) to start planning new recipe ideas. One of my favorite things to make year round, is a vibrant pesto featuring whatever I can get my hands on (Winter is great for spicer greens like watercress, and spring brings on the ramps, green garlic and carrot tops. While summer I am excited to add tarragon to the mix).
The beauty of pesto is you can put any herbs in you want - or nuts for that matter! Don't be limited to the traditional toasted pine nut - think walnuts, pistachios and even cashew. All these different flavor combos are going to bring a punch of herbaceousness and delicate creaminess to a number of dishes (soups, salads and sandwiches included...wow pesto, you really are a miracle condiment).
One of my favorite things to make for spring and summer get togethers is a picnic salad. Easy to prepare ahead of time, big enough to feed an army and customizable depending on what's available (seasonally or fridge-ally). For this pesto number I like to use a perfectly cooked arborio rice which really allows the pesto to coat evenly - and we're using RiceSelect because all of their products are the real thing! It’s clean of preservatives, chemicals, and added substances, Non GMO verified. Amen!
Spring Pesto Picnic Salad
1 cup RiceSelect Arborio Rice
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 TBS butter
1/2 golden sweet onion
1/2 cup pesto (ingredients below)
Fresh greens such as: pea tendrils & Watercress (can be substituted with spinach or finely chopped kale)
Fresh Veg such as: Radishes & sugar snap peas
Grilled Veg such as: asparagus & zucchini
1 bunch each: parsley, chives & basil
Juice & zest of 1 lemon
3-5 TBS olive oil
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup pistachios
1/4 cup grated parmesan
In a shallow pan, sauté onion with butter until golden, add rice and continue to stir over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add one cup broth, stirring until all is absorbed. Repeat with the next 2 cups of broth. Remove from heat and cover with lid.
For pesto, add garlic, herbs, pistachios, lemon zest & juice, olive oil and parmesan into a food processor. Blitz until smooth. Season with additional lemon, salt and pepper to taste.
Toss room temperature rice with pesto, coating each grain well. Toss in chopped vegetables and greens. Serve chilled or at room temperature as the ultimate picnic salad alongside grilled meat, seafood or veg. Salad can be made the night before, just refresh with a toss of fresh lemon juice before serving.
The key to a balanced and even textured picnic salad is to include both fresh and grilled elements. The snap of fresh sugar peas and thinly sliced radish are a delightful accompaniment to the savory grilled asparagus and squash. Tied all together with the creamy, pesto coated rice - sigh. Prepare yourself for being the side-dish (that really is a main dish) hero at all future events.
I think I'm going to start uncovering the patio furniture and make this official. Happy Spring to you all my friends!
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