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Lemon Thyme Orzo Pilaf with Toasted Pine Nuts

Lemon Thyme Orzo Pilaf with Toasted Pine Nuts is a fabulous restaurant-worthy side dish, ready for dinner. (photo by Deborah Brooks)


I’m always looking for new ideas for side dishes. Something other than the usual steamed rice and baked potatoes. Hey, I love those, but sometimes I want to step it up a few notches and get a little “fancy.” It’s easy to fall into cooking comfort zones in the kitchen. Life is busy. Putting up a batch of rice in the rice cooker or tossing a few potatoes in the oven takes little effort.

Today, I stepped it up a notch after finding a bag of orzo lost among the larger bags of pasta in my pantry. It was well worth the bit of extra time and effort. No worries if you’re thinking that this is some sort of complicated recipe. It’s not. It’s a basic pilaf. Though pilafs do take a bit of time and attention to get started. Then 20 minutes or so simmering on the stove and a fabulous restaurant-worthy side dish is ready for dinner.

While rice is the usual basis for pilafs, with a bit of pasta thrown in, I decided to make this entirely of pasta, as orzo mimics the look of rice. The finished product was creamy, almost like a risotto, and bursting with flavor. Adding a few spoons of lemon juice at the end of cooking truly added a bright finish. Toasted pine nuts, available at Trade Joes, added a nice bit of crunch and nuttiness plus protein.
Being vegan, I am always looking for ways to sneak in a bit of protein.

Of note, I used a combination of plant-based butter and olive oil to sauté the shallots and orzo before adding the broth. Adding olive oil to butter when sautéing helps prevent the butter from burning. Even plant-based butter. Plus, the flavor profile is rich and delicious.

As for the thyme, just throw in a few sprigs. The leaves will fall off in the broth as it cooks. Just remember to remove the stems before serving.

I served this orzo pilaf with grilled vegetable kebobs. I’ll be sharing that recipe next week. Make sure to check it out.


Lemon Thyme Orzo Pilaf with Toasted Pine Nuts

1 T plant based butter
2 T extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing the dish
1/3 cup finely chopped shallot
2 ½ cups dried orzo
Zest of one lemon
4 cups vegetable broth
Several sprigs fresh thyme
Salt to taste, I used about a tsp.
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
Lemon zest and thyme leaves for garnish

In a heavy, medium-sized saucepot, (I used a 4 qt Staub Dutch oven) heat the butter and 2 T EVOO until hot and foamy.

Lower the heat and add the chopped shallots. Sweat the shallots until softened and translucent about 4-5 minutes, being careful not to brown.

Add the orzo and brown the pasta lightly, stirring often, about 2-3 minutes.

Add the lemon zest and stir up.

Add the broth and thyme. Bring to a boil. Stir up and cover immediately and lower the heat to simmer.

This cooking method is similar to making rice.

Check the pasta after about 20 minutes to see if liquid has been absorbed.

Cook a few more minutes if necessary.

Add salt to taste, the lemon juice and a few swirls of EVOO and stir up.

Turn off the heat, cover and let rest 5 minutes.

Serve immediately topped with the pine nuts, a bit more lemon zest and a sprinkling of thyme leaves.


Simple ingredients you’re likely to have on hand make this delicious side dish. (photo by Deborah Brooks)


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Deborah Brooks
Deborah Brooks
Deborah is currently a documentary film producer. She is also a former certified personal trainer and fitness nutrition coach. The shutdown of business due to Covid-19 and the implication of an animal wet market connection caused her to rethink her high animal protein food lifestyle. She has spent the last year exploring the world of plant based eating for her own health as well as the health of the planet and all of its sentient beings. Her recipes can be found on Instagram. She would love you to follow along on her journey.

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