Camille Kingsolver’s Disappearing Zucchini Orzo from the wonderful book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle has been a favorite around here since 2008. It’s a brilliant way to use up three large zucchini in a hot minute, so maybe tuck this recipe away (or pin it!) for late summer. Or be like me and make it this week to get ahead of the curve.
Here’s some text from my 2008 post, published two weeks after our younger daughter was born. It’s medium-coherent. So there you go.
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 sautéing 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.
Talk to you soon.
Camille Kingsolver's Disappearing Zucchini Orzo
- 1 pound orzo pasta
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium to large yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 large zucchini, shredded
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (more to taste)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cook the orzo in well salted water according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil for a minute or two in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and a big pinch of salt and cook, stirring frequently, for fives minutes or so, until the onion is beginning to soften. Add the shredded zucchini and the thyme and raise 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 sauté "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, and cheese, along with salt and pepper to taste. Stir well but gently to combine. Serve warm or at room temperature.