pantry raid…

…the upside to culinary hoarding.

I had lots of actual work work this week, as in my sports photography thing. Wrestling, swimming and basketball rarely happen in the 9-to-5 block, so most nights my peeps relied on the frozen reserves. Wednesday was my only weeknight to cook and even then I managed to get caught off guard. I knew I wanted to compliment some delicious wild salmon we found, and by 4pm I finally acknowledged the collection of aging produce sitting in the rotter.

rotter (noun) rot·ter | \ ˈrä-tər
the crisper drawer in modern refrigerators designed to properly store fruits, vegetables and good intentions.

We all have ingredients purchased with the best of intentions and then promptly forgotten in the back of the fridge or pantry. And I’m the worst at this – I have a raging cheese addiction and never met a chutney I wouldn’t buy. I had been “saving” some lovely thin asparagus that was now glued to a lone zucchini who had been separated from the herd. This was an odd pairing; I needed an easy button to make asparagus and zucchini play nicely with salmon. So reaching deep behind the emergency Rao’s and endless jars of pickles I found some sun dried tomatoes, a box of orzo and what looked like $50 worth of Kirkland pine nuts.

never know when the hidden gems will be called into action

Perhaps we have been reprogrammed to stock up in case of another formal lock-down, and to me this means gourmet condiments and novel spices as much as toilet paper. Just this week the Today Show did a segment on the virtues of bulk shopping, like this was some closely held secret that was only unearthed by recent inflation. Sorry Mr. Melvin, but I have had a long-standing rule: never leave Costco without a gallon of milk, a rotisserie chicken and a bottle of wine. It was my parental safety net and I stand by it today, only with slight modifications – now it’s coffee, cheese and gas. Okay, I still use it for wine. And apparently an acre of asparagus.

Per usual, this dinner took a little research and “what if” tenacity. In the end, combining ideas from a couple of recipes addressed the surplus of expiring ingredients AND my hangry roommates with the surprise bonus of a pantry clean-out.

Lemon Orzo with Veggies and Goat Cheese

the asparagus was still perky but I got to this lemon just in the nick


  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta
  • 1 Tbs Kosher salt for boiling orzo
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 lb. thin asparagus, trimmed to 1” pieces
  • 1 large zucchini, drawn, quartered & sliced
  • 1/4 cup julienned sun-dried tomatoes in oil
  • 1-2 tsp dried or 1/2 cup fresh chopped dill
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 3 Tbs fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  • Fresh chopped parsley and/or dill


Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to boil and cook orzo to al dente per the instructions. Drain and set aside.

In a large pan heat olive oil on medium. Add asparagus and zucchini and sauté for about 4-5 minutes to soften but not lose spunk or color.

Add sun dried tomatoes with their oil, lemon zest, dill and lemon juice, tossing between each addition to distribute the flavors. Salt and pepper to taste at this point.

Reduce heat to low and add the cooked orzo, toasted pine nuts, chopped herbs and crumbled goat cheese. I generally toss this final combo completely off heat and serve immediately.

Note: I simply grill-panned the salmon in olive oil with salt, pepper and dill. Nothing crazy.

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