When I was a kid, one of my favorite comfort foods was “ptitim”, otherwise known as orzo or by the misleading name “Israeli couscous”. This short and springy wheat pasta is unrelated to the original semolina couscous, and actually has an interesting recession-era history. In the 1950s, during the age of austerity in Israel, Prime Minister David Ben Guryon ordered the Osem factory to come up with a cheap alternative to rice. Ptitim came to be known as “Ben Guryon rice.” They are now manufactured in various shapes.

Here, sometimes people cook them like pasta–boiling in a lot of water, then draining–but that’s not the best method, I think. This basic recipe is pretty easy, but today I dressed it up with lots of wonderful vegetables straight out of our CSA box. Here’s what I made:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
3 carrots (I used one purple, one orange, and one pale yellow)
1 summer squash
5 mushrooms
1 cup whole grain orzo
1 cup boiling water
1 tbsp blackened rub
1 handful fresh parsley

Heat olive oil in a small pot (and keep the lid nearby). Thinly chop carrots, onion, squash, and slice mushrooms. Saute onions until translucent, then add other vegetables and orzo. Cook in olive oil for about 2-3 minutes, or until the orzo begins to be a bit golden. Then, add the water and the blackened rub, lower the heat and cover the pot. Cook for about 10-15 minutes or until all water is absorbed; if water is absorbed and orzo is still a bit too al-dente-ish for you, add more water and cook a few more minutes. When all water is absorbed, fluff up with a fork, then put the lid back on for a couple of minutes. Serve with fresh parsley sprinkled on top.

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