Lately the weather has been see-sawing between winter and summer, then back to winter. Just as we’re ready to ease into longer days and lighter fare, here comes another arctic blast that makes us want to cup our hands around a bowl of something steaming.
It’s the perfect time for orzo, that short, little pasta that’s shaped like long grains of rice. It’s truly adaptable, pairing well with most anything from artichokes to zucchini.
A few weeks ago – back in the sweltering days of February – my friend Meg served dinner guests a chilled salad of orzo, chick peas, feta cheese, diced cucumbers, thinly sliced red onions, and a light dressing made from a hydroponic crop of dill. It was the perfect dish to usher in spring. Or so we thought.
A week later on a damp and blustery day with snow in the forecast, I cooked a batch of orzo and added it to a simmering tomato bisque to make the soup heartier, then served it sprinkled it with slivered Parmesan cheese.
A few days ago at a potluck dinner, someone noticed a bowl of herb-buttered orzo sitting next to a container of locally-made pimiento cheese. One scoop, two stirs, and a new variation of mac and cheese was born.
Warmer days have been reluctant to return, so it’s wise to keep lentils, onions, black beans, garlic, sausage, and other sturdy ingredients on hand to combine with orzo into filling combinations.
But it won’t be long until we’re picking early peas, mint, tomatoes, radishes, and baby lettuce for more delicate versions of our favorite dishes. That’s because any minute now, spring will come back. And this time, it will stay.