My kitchen disaster story begins with a box of orzo.

Years ago, when I was writing my cookbook, I subjected my sweet family to oodles of new recipes. And plenty of old favorites because, in addition to creating new dishes, I was also making my favorite dishes so that I could measure ingredients (which I rarely do) and photograph each one.

On one particularly dark day, I created a wondrous, luscious, delicious dish that I was planning to name “Citrus Orzo Salad.” It was fantastic. I boiled the orzo. I zested and juiced a couple of lemons. I sliced grape tomatoes. I cubed cucumbers. I chopped fresh parsley. I measured chicken stock and seasonings. I painstakingly combined them all into a fabulous dish. I tasted it and added a little salt. I spooned it into cute ramekins, garnished with fresh, green parsley, and set up my light box to take the most perfect photograph possible.

A few minutes later, I placed the ramekins on the table accompanied by a little plate with toasted slices of buttered French bread. I scooped ice into glasses and poured sweet tea for everybody.

And then I called the tribe to dinner.

Everybody came to the table and had a seat. I heard the most-asked question during this period of my life: Who got the beauty plate? I answered that everybody did because all the plates were exactly the same.

We bowed our heads and Michael blessed our meal. He said amen and then came the second-most-asked question: So what do we have for dinner tonight?

I smiled and said, “This is Citrus Orzo Salad.” They picked up their forks and dug in as I continued. “It’s a little tangy from the lemon and it’s savory from the -“

“Gross!” Elizabeth cried loudly (and rudely).

“What?” I asked, bewildered by this reaction.

“Mom, this is nasty,” Christopher said (also rudely).

“Well, I -“

“Baby,” Michael finally said. “This tastes like Lemon Pledge smells.”

My brow furrowed. “What are you talking about?” I took a bite. “It’s really good,” I insisted. “I don’t know what you’re -“

“It’s gross!” “I don’t like it!” “Honey, I’m sorry. I can’t eat this.”

And then…

They forced me to order pizza!

When I had made a really good and tasty meal!

I was not happy. I angrily scraped their dishes into the garbage and I’m still not sure how I didn’t break the ramekins when I “put” them into the sink. I, of course, ate my portion in stony silence and refused to even TOUCH the pizza.

Lemon Pledge, my eye! This stuff was delicious! I kept telling myself that even as I deleted the beautiful and perfect pictures from my camera roll.

I don’t think I even slept that night. I kept replaying the dinner scene over in my head. I just didn’t understand what went wrong! I had made plenty of orzo dishes in the past. My Mushroom and Onion Orzo Pilaf was a family favorite! The Tomato Parmesan Orzo was a favorite with baked fish! What had gone so wrong with this dish?

That was nine years ago. NINE!

And they all still bring it up. Every time I say I’m making something new, I see a suspicious gaze, followed by “It’s not that citrus thing again, is it?”


It was years before I would even allow a box of orzo into this house! PTOSD – Post Traumatic Orzo Stress Disorder – for real!

But eventually, I did cook with orzo again. I really do love the stuff. But I will never make it with citrus again. EVER!

It is often hard to find orzo in the store where I shop most. So I ordered some on Amazon. If you can’t find it either, here’s a link to the kind I got:

I made this delicious dish a few nights ago when I spotted my last container of orzo hiding in the pantry. “NO LEMON!” I said to myself silently as I pulled the orzo from the shelf.

Do you see what these people have done to me?

This is definitely not the dish of my worst kitchen disaster. This is a keeper.

Mushroom Pecan Orzo

  • 16 oz. of orzo
  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 teaspoon of tarragon
  • 1-2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/2 cup of chopped pecans

Boil orzo in salted water according to package directions.

While orzo is cooking, drizzle oil into a large skillet. Add onions and mushrooms to the skillet and cook over high heat until vegetables are tender and onions are translucent.

When orzo is done, use a spider or slotted spoon to drain orzo and transfer it to the skillet. Stir to combine. Add tarragon and salt. Add a ladle or two of pasta cooking water and stir over high heat. Remove from heat and stir in chopped pecans. Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired.

Well Duh #1: Pecans are totally optional, but they do give a nice dimension to the dish.

Well Duh #2: Orzo is pasta. It looks like rice, but it is pasta. So you don’t cook it like rice. You boil it in water like pasta. In this recipe, you don’t drain it because you add the starchy pasta cooking water to the dish once everything is combined. If you are using it in a recipe that doesn’t need the pasta water, you can just drain in like you would pasta. My Slightly Southwestern Orzo Salad is a cold pasta salad, so I drain the orzo and rinse it with cool water until it’s no longer hot.

Well Duh #3: The recipe calls for 1-2 teaspoons of salt. If you salt your pasta water correctly, you won’t need as much salt. Start with one teaspoon (I actually use the first teaspoon when I’m sauteeing the vegetables) and add more if you taste and it needs it after everything is combined. It’s your recipe now. You decide!

Well Duh #4:  I’ve had several readers and friends ask what made us decide to become plant-based eaters. We totally did it for Michael’s health, but here is the book that was partially the reason why we chose plant-based over other eating plans. If you’re even slightly interested, you should read this book! It’s called Forks Over Knives: The Plant-Based Way to Health.

If you aren’t a plant-based eater, this dish would be really great as a side dish with pork chops or chicken. It was our main dish and it was really filling and delicious.

Michael loved it.

After, of course, he looked at me suspiciously and asked, “Is this orzo?” I nodded and he continued with a grin, “Does it have – ?”

The look on my face silenced him.

Do you have an unforgettable kitchen disaster? Share it in the comments below!

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