Back to Basics… Garlic Parmesan Orzo

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I’m really not a pasta person. Orzo though, let’s talk about that for a moment. Those cute little flat jawnies are really adorable, honestly. Not too starchy, and they mix well with other ingredients to make a flavorful side dish. I’ve got a  ton of orzo recipes, but this weekend I was in need of a basic side that wouldn’t overpower our main dish (which I will be sharing soon!), and this is my go-to. While this is definitely not paleo, it’s a favorite of mine that I want to share with you all.

I’ve been running around a lot recently, doing my normal routine… you know, over-booking myself, trying to re-create the wheel for no reason, wasting time doing things I know can be done by others… pretty run-of-the-mill for me. As I was scrambling to make this dinner that had so many steps and parts to it, I realized I didn’t leave a lot of  time to make a hearty side dish that would feed all of the people eating dinner. Not only did I not have the brain power left to think of something in 15 seconds, I didn’t want it to be crazy strong in flavor and compete with my chicken. This is where one of my essentials comes in: a basic, yet tasty, side dish with orzo.

I always keep a big jar of it on hand because it’s quick and easy, but there’s so much else you can do with it. This little side dish only took about 20 min total to finish, and it has all of my favorite things…. Garlic, garlic…. And a smidge (a heap, really) of Parmesan. (Note: Vegan parmesan can be substituted, but since it isn’t actually dairy-based, it won’t melt the same way. This could be remedied with adding a bit more olive oil, but you want to be careful that you don’t end up with “greasy” orzo.)

I love adding fresh Parsley from my little herb boxes on my balcony (that I now realize I’ve neglected in this heat…. Hope they aren’t upstairs all sad and crunchy L), which really adds to the colors in the dish. Orzo keeps well in the fridge too, and I love throwing it in a pan with some chicken the next day to make a little stir-fry.

Case in point – sometimes it’s just not worth trying to make things complicated. Going the simple route, which can be the easy route, is hard for some people, including myself. This is not just limited to cooking, but can also be your job, your friends, your relationship, or your education. We’ve been trained to believe that “if it’s easy, it isn’t worth it, and if it’s worth it, it isn’t easy.” While that definitely holds true for some things, why go through your life thinking that this mantra applies to everything?

Here’s some homework. Aside from making this simple little orzo dish, I want you to take one thing you do daily or weekly, and re-evaluate it. Can it be done more easily, or can it be done differently so that you enjoy it? Are you stuck doing it because it’s a habit; does it actually serve you? If you can simplify one thing, no matter how small, you’re on the right track. Literally, there is nothing to small. Personally, I switched to a pencil eyeliner this summer, because it’s too hot to stand there and use my liquid eye liner. I don’t want my wings to melt off the side of my eyes in this 95 degree heat, I don’t feel like standing there waiting for it to dry… small victory, but a victory no less.

Garlic Parmesan Orzo

Serves 6-8

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups orzo
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2  gloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
  • ½ cup grated or shredded good quality Parmesan
  • ~1/2 to 1 tsp salt, to taste. Start with a ½, and continue to add if more is needed
  • ½ tsp black pepper

Directions

  1. In a large frying pan, add 1 tbsp olive oil and onion. Sauté the onion for about 3-4 minutes on medium heat, until it starts to brown. Add garlic and orzo and a pinch of salt, cooking for another 3-4 minutes until slightly browned (but not burnt!).
  2. Add chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Turn to low and cover, allowing to simmer for about 15 minutes. I never ignore the pan though – I’ve found that different brands of orzo take different times to absorb, so more water may be needed. The orzo should be al dente; not chewy, but not super mushy. If you find it’s done but you still have too much moisture, turn the heat back up to medium, sautéing and stirring with the lid off until most of the liquid burns off…. Then put back down to low heat.
  3. Add parsley, salt and pepper – stir to combine. If you used low-sodium broth, you may need to continue adding salt until you get some flavor. Always start with less, so that you don’t over salt 🙂
  4. Right before serving, add Parmesan, stirring throughout to ensure consistency. Optional: Add some fresh parsley to garnish.

Enjoy!

-S

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