Vegan Orzo Recipe

It’s been exactly three days, and it hardly seems real. We’ve been sleeping in our new place in the Excelsior for a couple of weeks, but as of the 15th, I am officially no longer a resident of the Mission. We took our time moving, partially due to our busy lives, partially due to our staggered work schedules. In truth, also, because it was hard to leave the neighborhood. But Monday night it was over, terminado, fini!

We hugged our neighbors, chatted with our favorite corner-store owners and made plans to sip tequila with our (now former) landlord. Our new place is just a couple of miles up Mission. It sometimes seems, however, a million miles away. My sunny 5×8 patio has been traded for a giant backyard, but it is shrouded in fog almost every day. I know I’ll get used to it, I’ll finally have my vegetable garden, maybe a small beehive and some chickens. I’ll discover fantastic hidden gems in this classic San Francisco neighborhood and I’ll love my new community, but saying goodbye is always a little hard.

Today I was feeling melancholy on my drive home from Rainbow Grocery, and a melodramatic feeling of dread filled my heart when I saw the fog bank as I approached my new ‘hood. As I drove up Geneva and crossed Mission, suddenly the fog lifted, and by the time I got to my little yellow house on the hill, it was actually kind of sunny, which made my rainbow-colored orzo dish all the more perfect.


For Orzo

  • 1 lb whole wheat orzo
  • 4 quarts water
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ Tbsp sea salt

For Veggies

  • 1 head purple cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1 orange bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 torpedo onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Tbsp salt-packed capers
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • fresh chervil

For Vinaigrette

  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar; I used Zinfandel vinegar
  • 6 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 6 large halves of sundried tomatoes, preferably San Marzanos (not oil-packed)
  • 1 tsp dried mustard
  • 8 whole peppercorns
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • coarse-ground sea salt


  • Set water to boil in a heavy pot or Dutch oven.
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet and toast orzo over medium heat. Keep the pan moving, tossing the orzo, until it is fragrant and lightly browned, about 4-5 minutes, then place the orzo in a bowl until your water is boiling and ready.
  • Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the (emptied) skillet you’ve just cooked the orzo in, and cook the onions and cauliflower for about 10 minutes over medium heat. Don’t disturb the veggies too much, so you’ll get some nice caramelization, but keep your eye on things so they don’t burn.
  • Add the bell pepper and cherry tomatoes to the cauliflower and onions. Toss everything well, but be gentle with the tomatoes. Cook for another 3 minutes, then add ½ cup vegetable broth and raise the heat to medium high, bringing to a simmer.
  • Once the water is boiling, add the salt and the orzo and cook for 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain immediately and return to the pot.
  • Add the capers to the veggie mix and give it a taste. Add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
  • Mix the orzo into the veggie skillet. Toss lightly over medium-low heat. Taste again and adjust seasoning as needed. Cover while making the sundried tomato vinaigrette.
  • Add vinegar, olive oil, garlic, sundried tomatoes, peppercorns and dried mustard to the bowl of a food processor and process 1 minute to combine. Add vegetable broth and process for another minute. Taste, and add coarse-ground sea salt sparingly — remember that each component of the dish is seasoned.
  • To serve: sprinkle orzo with freshly chopped chervil, oil-cured black olives (optional) and sundried tomato vinaigrette.

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Sabrina Modelle is the girl behind The Tomato Tart ( A web designer by day and a food writer by night, she lives, eats, and loves in El Corazon- right off the 24th Street corridor. She finds that inspiration comes easily in this city full farmers markets, mercados, food trucks, and food obsessed folks. Comments are her favorite, so speak up!

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  1. This sounds like my life for the past month–moving and saying good-bye!! And this recipe sounds wonderful! But you really should try it with some Himalayan pink salt. I get mine from Sustainable Sourcing The flavor is so much better than regular salt! Thanks for sharing this recipe—I can’t wait to try it!