When I first worked for ExperiencePlus! back in the last century, our offices were housed in Rick and Paola’s basement. We lunched together in their south-facing, well-lit kitchen which opened to the backyard and an enclosed solarium-like space where I believe a lemon tree grew (among other bountiful plants). What a thing to grow your own lemons in Colorado! I wish I had my own solarium in which to grow a lemon tree that bore fruit year-round because it seems every dish I am drawn to making these days uses lemon juice or zest. This lovely spring-time recipe is no exception, and it uses both to give the orzo and asparagus a refreshing and oh-so satisfying lift.
I followed the recipe below but served it on a bed of arugula and topped it with avocado and some extra Parmesan cheese.
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 cup orzo (uncooked)
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a diagonal (about ¼-inch thick)
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice, plus more as needed (2-3 large lemons)
- ½ cup panko or homemade bread crumbs
- 1 small garlic clove, finely grated
- ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
- ½ cup parsley leaves (optional)
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente according to package directions. Two minutes before the orzo is done, add the asparagus. Drain the orzo and asparagus. Wipe out and reserve the pot.
While the orzo and asparagus cook, make the dressing: In a large bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons oil and the lemon zest and juice; season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the drained orzo and asparagus and toss to coat. Set aside.
In the reserved pot, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium. Add the panko and cook, stirring, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, then stir in the garlic and season with salt and pepper.
Stir the Parmesan and herbs into the orzo, taste, then season with salt, pepper and additional lemon juice, if desired. Top with the toasted bread crumbs and more Parmesan if you like. Serve warm or at room temperature.