Fresh summer veggies combine with orzo, riced broccoli, and a creamy vegan dressing made with lemon juice and olive brine. Great as a side dish for potlucks and parties, or add chickpeas and call it lunch! Vegan with nut-free and gluten-free options.
Cook orzo in salted water according to package directions, just until al dente. Do not overcook. Drain in a colander, toss and rinse with cold water until cool.
Place broccoli florets in a food processor, and pulse until uniformly broken down into small, rice-size pieces. If any larger pieces remain, dump everything into a bowl, and put the large pieces back in the food processor. Pulse again.
Pre-heat the now empty pasta pot over medium heat. Add broccoli rice to pot, and cook, stirring occasionally, until bright green, 3 to 4 minutes. The broccoli will become fragrant and smell slightly nutty or sesame-like. Season with sea salt. Remove from heat and let cool.
To make the dressing, in a blender combine ½ cup olive brine, ⅓ cup lemon juice, garlic, and pumpkin seeds (or cashews). Blend on high until smooth.
In the pasta pot or a very large mixing bowl, combine the orzo, broccoli rice, and about ⅔ of the dressing. Stir to combine. Fold in the cucumber, tomatoes, olives, and red pepper, if using. Taste, and add plenty of freshly cracked black pepper, if desired, as well as more dressing. Garnish with thinly sliced basil or chopped parsley and vegan feta, if using.
Selecting olives and brine:I used 365 Whole Foods brand organic, pitted kalamata olives. If making the lemon-olive brine dressing included in the recipe, for similar results look for jarred olives with the same ingredients: kalamata olives, water, red wine vinegar, sea salt. Storage:Store orzo pasta salad in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Because of the high water content of cucumber, it's best to consume the salad within 1 to 2 days.