I confess: I am somewhat of a lazy cook. It is not that I am willing to cut corners and sacrifice good technique; instead my strategy is to choose unfussy dishes that yield the most pleasure and satisfaction for the least amount of effort.
For that reason, I am a big fan of what I call the “two-for-one side dish”: a recipe made in one pan that does double duty as a grain and a vegetable.
This lovely, lemony pilaf is a prime example. Rice-shaped whole-grain orzo pasta is simmered in a skillet with a bounty of garden vegetables and herbs for a sumptuous side that takes less than 30 minutes.
Rather than boiling and draining the orzo, as you would typically cook pasta, you first toast it in a bit of olive oil, then cook it in broth in the same skillet until it is al dente. The pasta is enveloped in a sauce thickened with its own starch, which gives it a luxurious, risotto-like texture.
Shredding the zucchini means it cooks in 2 minutes, integrates seamlessly with the grain and lends pretty flecks of green to the dish. Cherry tomatoes and tender herbs contribute more fresh taste and nutrition, and a squeeze of lemon juice adds a sunny acidity. Serve it with grilled chicken or fish for a flavorful and fulfilling meal.
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Orzo Garden Pilaf With Lemon and Herbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 green onions, thinly sliced, white and light-green parts only
1 cup whole-wheat orzo pasta
1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 cup grated zucchini (6 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, stir in the green onions; cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the orzo and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Pour in the broth and increase the heat to high; once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 8 to 9 minutes, or until the orzo is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.
Stir in the tomatoes and zucchini; cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; stir in the parsley and basil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and serve.
Per serving (using low-sodium vegetable broth): 240 calories, 7 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium, 8 g dietary fiber, 4 g sugar.
Yield: 4 servings.