Orzo with Shrimp, Spinach and Pineapple

Am I alone in craving a specific dish at the start of each season?  With the first change in the weather, I am like one of Pavlov’s dogs in my desire for a certain recipe that in my mind marks the beginning of that season.  As leaves flutter toward the ground, I am whipping up a batch of my beloved Curried Lentil Soup (be on the lookout for this recipe early October) and with that initial pollen-induced sneeze, I’m running to the store to pick up one pineapple and a leek to make Orzo with Shrimp, Spinach and Pineapple.

This recipe has been in my repertoire for several years, and while I knew it was from The Washington Post, I wasn’t sure just how far back it went.  Well, it turns out that Orzo with Shrimp, Spinach and Pineapple ran in the March 24, 2010 Food Section, so I am guessing that I may have company in my association between these flavors and Spring.

Our weather in Washington, D.C. turned sharply last week when it appeared as though we may have gone directly from Winter to Summer (yes, we had snow and 88 degree temperatures in a two-week span).  I managed to eek out this meal on one of the only breezy, humidity-free, 70-something degree days that we’ll see in this neck of the woods.  Timing is everything.

This dish is probably best eaten immediately but can definitely be refrigerated for future consumption, as long as you brighten it before serving with an extra splash of dressing (you’ll have enough to do so), a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt. It works as well for company as it does for family and would be right at home at your next potluck barbecue. Enjoy!

Orzo with Shrimp, Spinach and Pineapple

Orzo with Shrimp, Spinach and Pineapple

Orzo with Shrimp, Spinach and Pineapple
Serves 6
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For the vinaigrette
  1. 1 cup fresh pineapple, peeled and cut into pieces
  2. 1/4 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia, cut into slices
  3. 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  4. 12-16 fresh basil leaves
  5. 1 fresh lemon
  6. 1/2 Tbls honey or agave nectar
  7. 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper, plus more to taste
  8. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  9. kosher salt, to taste
For the shrimp
  1. 1 Tbls olive oil
  2. 1 medium leek
  3. 1 jarred roasted red pepper, julienned
  4. 24 peeled, deveined shrimp (or more if you'd like a heartier main course)
  5. 8 oz. baby spinach, washed
For the pasta
  1. 1 lb. orzo pasta
  2. Handful of washed cilantro leaves, for garnish
  3. 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts, for garnish
For the vinaigrette
  1. Place pineapple, onion, vinegar, basil, 1/2 Tbls lemon juice, honey and red pepper flakes in blender. Blend on low-speed, then add oil in a slow, steady stream. Increase speed to medium to form an emulsified vinaigrette. Season with salt to taste. You will have two cups of vinaigrette, but will initially only need 1 cup (the extra cup can be added to the orzo if you don't serve immediately or used on a green salad or fruit salad). Set aside.
  2. Place spinach in a large serving bowl.  Heat oil in a large saute pan. Cut and thoroughly clean the white and light green part of the leek.  Slice into 1/4-inch, half-moon slices and add to the pan.*
  3. Cook leeks until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the roasted red pepper and shrimp.  Saute until shrimp are cooked through, should take no more than 4 minutes, stirring and flipping shrimp to help them cook evenly. Once shrimp are cooked, remove pan from the heat and pour contents over the spinach.
  4. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to boil and cook orzo to package directions. Drain and immediately pour orzo into the serving bowl--joining the spinach and shrimp mixture. Pour 1 cup of vinaigrette over the orzo and stir to combine ingredients and wilt the spinach.  Top serving bowl (or individual bowls) with chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt. Enjoy!
Notes
  1. *I slice the leeks, place in a large bowl of cold water and move them around to cause any grit to settle at the bottom of the bowl. Remove floating leeks from the water with a strainer or your hands (as opposed to draining the bowl) to keep the dirt settled on the bottom--and away from your leeks.
Adapted from The Washington Post
Adapted from The Washington Post
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