chickpea asparagus grain bowl?

A question mark title you may ask? This could be done either with whole wheat orzo making it a pasta salad or with farro as a not-pasta salad but both qualify for a grain bowl given that orzo is made from a grain. We always go whole wheat orzo to increase the nutritional value (and diminish the damage from over-refined flour). Quinoa would also do the job or even a mix.

Grain bowls have been around for a while in fast food chains but we were surprised by the Hawaiian name for them when one appeared near the corner of our summer residential piazza in Rome: Poke. An easy eat in or take out or food delivery meal that took off during COVID, no warming necessary, even relatively healthy ingredients. We got COVID that first summer so were in need of this option once released from our self-imposed week of quarantine.

The web tells us that Hawaiian poke (super popular in Hawaii) is not like the exported version we found in Rome or that you might find on the mainland (USA), but since we will probably never get to Hawaii (nor most of you as well), we are happy to settle for what we find. Namely your choice of multiple options for the base (farro, rice, quinoa, mixed greens, whatever), the fillers, the proteins, the sauces, the topping.

There were a bunch of choices that popped up from our orzo salad search but Ani chose one that she followed relatively closely except for the chopped black olives bob saw in another recipe. And the avocado to feed our addiction. And the grape tomatoes. It was very tasty and will be repeated, perhaps with some variation in the ingredients. But chickpeas are close to our Mediterranean inclinations and we love asparagus, so those two will probably remain. With the daily fix of avocado.


Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 c fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, grated or pressed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 t ground cumin
1/2 t salt
black pepper freshly ground (10 grinds)
everything else
3/4 c whole wheat orzo pasta
1/2 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed; slice into 1/2-inch pieces
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
1/4 c chopped parsley
1/3 c feta cheese, crumbled
2 green onions, finely sliced or 1/2 red onion
1 c halved grape tomatoes or equivalent
2 Persian cucumbers, chopped
2 cups baby arugula
1/3 c chopped black olives
1 avocado, chopped into small pieces
 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted


  1. Wisk together the dresssing stuff and set aside.
  2. Prep and precook the asparagus (boiling water) without over softening it.
  3. Toast the orzo over medium high heat until golden brown and nutty-smelling, about 10 minutes, tossing the pan frequently. Remove from the heat.
  4. Cook the orzo according to the package directions (salted boiling water) until al dente, and either precook the prepped cut asparagus in boiling water or toss them into the final 3 minutes of the orzo processing.
  5. Drain in a colander and if so inclined ensure cooking stops by running cold water over the orzo-asparagus, and drain well.
  6. Combine all the stuff with the dressing in a big enough bowl.
  7. I guess that qualifies it as a grain bowl, no?
  8. Don't exaggerate the lemon, we tossed in the juice of the whole lemon exceeding the suggested 1/3 c and the lemon sort of overpowered the rest of the flavors.


  1. The story of poke from Hawaiian Airlines.
  2. Our guide: orzo salad with asparagus, lemon and chickpeas
  3. Illustrations available.
grainbowl.htm:11-feb-2024 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]