This week has been all about change. We sent our toddler, our baby, to preschool this week. For the last 19+ months, it has been me & her. Us. All day, every day, all week long. For the last 7 months, I have been looking forward to the first day of school as if it were Christmas. I counted down the months, then weeks, then days – I think only Christmas moves slower!
I packed the “baby” a lunch, a snack, and gathered her things. And then I chewed off every single fingernail in a bout of anxiety and nervousness as the clock on the oven moved minute by minute closer to 8:40am. She’s not a baby anymore and still a ways from being independent. We’re somewhere in between, a gray area that lacks enough definition to make it… weird. Unsettling. And it’s not the only thing.
There was a 17 degree temperature swing in the high temps of the previous two Sundays. Even at 91 degrees, you can tell that something’s going on. It no longer feels like summer – the water in the pool is already ice cold but the first official day of fall is still weeks away. We’ve cleared the spent cherry and grape tomato vines to make way for a fall garden and hopefully a bounty of butternut squash. Halloween candy and decorations are out. People are talking about pumpkin bread, Thanksgiving menus, and fall boots. And I’m grasping onto summer tomatoes as if they were a life preserve.
This dish has all the bright, light flavors of summer with a light and stealthily comforting, creamy sauce. And it comes together in under half an hour. The flavors and calorie content don’t really fit the fall comfort food stereotype – fat-free Greek yogurt, lemon juice, and pasta water might not be mistaken for heavy cream and butter, but it’s an in-between dish worthy of the transition between summer and fall.
Lemony Orzo with Chicken and Roasted Tomatoes
A quick and easy light pasta dish full of bright summer flavors.
- 1 pint grape tomatoes
- 3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups dried orzo
- 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup white wine or chicken stock
- 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
- 1 cup leftover shredded chicken
- 1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream (I use 0% Fage)
- 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp fresh basil, thinly sliced and divided
- Preheat oven to 450.
- Toss tomatoes with 2 Tbsp of olive oil, salt, and pepper, and pour into a baking dish and bake for ~20 minutes while preparing the rest of the meal.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook according to package directions.
- While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the onion, pinch of salt, and pepper and cook, stirring often, until deep golden brown, 7 to 8 minutes.
- Add garlic clove and cook another minute.
- Deglaze the pan with the wine or chicken stock, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom.
- Add the artichoke hearts and shredded chicken and cook until heated through, 2 to 3 minutes more and remove from heat.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water when draining the orzo.
- Transfer the hot orzo back to the pot and toss with the yogurt and lemon juice.
- Add the artichoke mixture, 2 Tbsp of the basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently to combine.
- Add pasta water 2 Tbsp at a time if necessary to make the pasta creamier.
- Spoon into bowls, and top with the roasted tomatoes (use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes from the baking dish to the pasta) and the remaining basil and serve.
Yields: 4 generous servings
Estimated time: 25 minutes