lemon orzo pasta salad

My mom has been learning to play the cello for the past 12 months. She was telling me how she wishes she started learning it sooner but relishes it now despite picking it up in her late 50’s. She was saying how since I’m a young person (relatively), if I learned a new hobby or skill now and develop it for a decade, it would be amazing where I would be! This made me think about Malcolm Gladwell’s book, blink, about mastering a subject area or skill progressively over 10,000 hours to become an expert. Is there anything I’ve been doing progressively for that amount of time?! I realize I’ve been tinkering in the kitchen for about a decade, on and off, but not with the concentrated and all consuming effort year in and year out. But what kind of cook will I be if I spend a cumulative 10,000 hours in the kitchen?

In cooking, learning how to use the same ingredient in multiple ways is part of becoming a so-called expert. I found this recipe from one of my favorite food blogs and adapted it to my taste buds.

It’s a versatile and light dish perfect as a side to a protein (i.e. barbeque chicken), a potluck side dish, or a simple and satisfying work week lunch.

lemon orzo pasta salad (adapted from Week of Menus)
serves 4-6
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth (I used one carton of Trader Joe’s regular sodium and added 2 cups of water)
1 pound orzo (find at a supermarket and Fresh & Easy in the pasta section)
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cup carrots, julienne
1 cup chopped fresh basil
1 cup chopped green onions
½ cup sunflower seeds, toasted (or toasted pine nuts or pepitas)
½ cup golden raisins

Whisk vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, and honey in small bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.
Bring broth to boil in large heavy saucepan. Stir in orzo, reduce heat to medium, cover partially, and boil until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain. Transfer to large wide bowl or baking sheet, tossing frequently until cool.
In a large salad bowl or serving bowl, mix the remaining ingredients into the orzo. Add vinaigrette; toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.) Serve at room temperature.

This tastes the best the same day but it’s great for lunch the day after. The key in this dish is the freshness of the veggies and crunchy texture. Serves about 6. Enjoy!

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