Camille Kingsolver’s Disappearing Zucchini Orzo

Nope, you’re right. That is not, technically speaking, a picture of the orzo recipe. But who needs to see disappearing zucchini, really, when there’s “Chickpea Noodle Soup” this colorful on offer from the plastic kitchen in the living room?

However, when it comes to taste, sustenance and low probability of posing a choking hazard, I feel infinitely more comfortable recommending Camille Kingsolver’s Disappearing Zucchini Orzo. The original recipe hails from what you must, by now, consider the object of my tragic, embarrassing obsession: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Its ingenious little contribution to the culinary canon is the shredding and sauteing of a laughable quantity of zucchini or other summer squash, reducing it to a nutrient-packed, almost saucelike element that really does commune beautifully with, if not quite totally disappear into, the dish as a whole. With orzo, at room temperature, this is a perfect lunch and would be a welcome addition to any picnic or barbecue. With linguine, a little gussying up, and a crisp glass of white wine to dull the pain of the baby’s routine evening screamfest, it makes an excellent easy dinner. By using a pasta other than orzo, you’ll sacrifice a little bit of the squash’s vanishing quality, but even my PZSD-affected umami boy didn’t seem to mind.

For dinner, we substituted one pound of linguine for the orzo and added a large handful of chopped fresh basil and a small handful of chopped capers. I took two 15-ounce cans of diced tomatoes out of the pantry and stared long and hard at them while the squash was cooking but ultimately decided not to add them. I think we would’ve been equally happy if I had.

Camille Kingsolver’s Disappearing Zucchini Orzo
Adapted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

1 pound orzo pasta
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 large zucchini, shredded
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram or oregano, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmigiano cheese

Cook the orzo according to the package directions, in water salty enough that you can taste it.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil for a minute or two in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring, for another minute or so, until the garlic is fragrant but not brown. Add the shredded squash, the marjoram and the thyme, and raise the heat to high. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash releases its juices and they cook off and then the squash begins to brown slightly. (Camille’s recipe says to saute “briefly,” but I’m thinking that brief must mean something different to people who start their food from seed. This process takes 10 to 15 minutes when I do it.) Turn off the heat and immediately add the drained orzo, lemon juice and zest, along with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well but gently to combine, and serve.

  • Diana Pappas

    I have have have to read this book. I’ve reserved it twice at the library, and it’s only ever been available when I’ve been away. Grrr. Will try again…

    Zucchini is an ingredient in one of my favorite personal recipes which is actually so so close to the recipe you’ve made here. It’s strange, but I associate it with a nice winter comfort food – how messed up is it that one of my nice winter comfort foods is made with summer squash?ReplyCancel

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