April 24th, 2012
My love for the one pot meal blossomed just 5 years ago. The hungry boy is 5 years old. You do the math.
Before he was born, I either went out for dinner, ordered in, or cooked slow dishes and elaborate meals. And, truth be told, taking my time in the kitchen lingering over ingredients, experimenting with new dishes, baking one thing while another simmers, is still what I love most. But it’s not what I can do most.
Like many of you, my weeknight meals have to be quick and easy, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t also be healthy, affordable and even joyful. That’s right—I just used “joyful” and “weeknight meal” in one sentence. It’s possible! You just have to work off of what you love.
Since I can’t linger in my kitchen most Monday-Fridays, I leave myself room to experiment with weeknight meals. For me, it helps keep cooking from being a chore. It keeps time in my kitchen joyful. And when my experimentations pay off with dishes like this warm orzo salad, it makes mealtime a joy for my family, too.
My love for the one pot meal developed out of my weeknight experiments. At first, I conducted them begrudgingly. Where was the fun in cooking out of just one pot? And the plate would be piled high with a single dish? No composition? No intricate pairings? Psh!
The more I made one pot meals, though, the more I realized the great challenge in making them well. And, for me, all it takes is a good kitchen challenge. I could layer grains and protein, create complex spice combinations, and develop quick, but rich sauces. Maybe one pot meals weren’t so bad. Maybe they could even be good, like really good. And maybe, just maybe, like everything else, they have a time and place.
This warm orzo salad is proof that all of those things are true.
Warm and bright, this dish is a shining example of how a lively one pot meal can be made out of a nearly empty fridge. Look at this green!
Cozy but not heavy, it’s perfect for this time in between seasons. (And, soon enough, this will make a killer picnic dish.) It’s also a complete meal made especially nutritious garnished with crushed nuts. I’ve used walnuts and pistachios, both of which work great.
So enjoy… and tell me:
What helps you keep your weeknight cooking motivation?
Warm Orzo Salad with Brussels Sprouts and Golden Raisins
(can be shared with kids 6+ mos)*
1 1/2 cups golden raisins
1-1lb box orzo
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to finish
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 pint (16 ounces) brussels sprouts, trimmed and shredded
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth (you can substitute water)
1/2 cup creme fraiche
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lemon, optional
1. Place a large pot of salted water over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. If raisins need plumping, add them to the boiling water for 15 seconds before removing with a slotted spoon; set aside. Add orzo and cook until just tender, about 12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking water. Rinse orzo and set aside.
2. Return pot to stove, add olive oil and turn heat to medium. When the oil is just hot, add garlic. Cook until it starts to turn brown. Add brussels sprouts; toss to coat and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they begin to wilt and get brown in spots. Add broth and cook another minute, until the sprouts are just tender and there is a little bit of broth remaining. Add raisins, orzo, reserved cooking water, creme fraiche and zest. Toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. You can also add a bit of fresh lemon juice if you want a stronger lemon flavor. Serve warm.
*Note: Puree a small portion to share with children not yet managing chunks or finger foods like raisins. Otherwise, serve as is, being careful to chop the raisins and brussels sprouts if necessary.