Homemade pesto with orzo, broccoli, and avocado

I bought a huge bunch of basil from our new favorite shopping market with no definitive plans for it...it's summer, the price was right, and it just smelled and looked too good to pass up. Instead of using it throughout the week to give everything I touched a hint of basil, I decided it was time to perfect my very own pesto sauce. 20110721-013548.jpg

Dutifully doing my research, I read about two dozen pesto recipes gaining ideas from lots of cooks. This is what I decided on: Browngoat Pesto: Put about 3 cups of loosely packed basil leaves into a food processor. Add 1/3 cup of pine nuts, 1/4 cup of olive oil, 4 small cloves of garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt. Blend until smooth, then slowly add another 1/4 cup of olive oil blending to emulsify. It's simple, vegan, and freshly delicious. It will last for a week in the refrigerator in a sealed container or you can freeze it in ice cube trays and then pop the cubes into a freezer bag so that you have small portions to reheat during the winter season when the basil is not as abundant.

I served it with a recipe loosely adapted from Heidi's Super Natural Every Day, a cookbook that I adore (thank you again, Lara, for this wonderful gift!). I use the book almost weekly for some recipes but mostly for ideas about how to cook the foods I have on hand.

Summer Orzo Salad: Bring a large pot of water to boil, salt generously, and add 2 cups of orzo pasta. Cook for about 13 minutes, drain, and let sit. In the meantime, bring a small amount of water to boil in a large pot, then stir in 2 heads of raw broccoli cut into small florets and a big pinch of salt. Steam for about 4 minutes, depending on how soft you like your broccoli to be. The broccoli can be drained in the same colander with the orzo. Dump the orzo and broccoli into a large serving bowl and stir in about 1/3 cup of pesto and the juice and grated lemon zest from 1/2 of a large lemon. Gently fold in 1 medium avocado cut into small slices and top with 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts. The lemon gives this salad a welcome note of cheeriness while the avocado adds a creamy depth. It's really good and makes leftovers for yummy lunches! (The avocado will probably brown a bit in the leftover portion, but it's still okay to eat.)