Recipe: Lemony Lentil, Orzo, and Broccoli Bake (Plus, New Beginnings in Old Territory)

I’m starting a new journey today.  Or maybe it’s more apt to say I’m returning to an old one?  I work in human services and for the last year and a half I’ve worked to provide services for seniors and people living with disabilities.  Prior to this role, though, I worked for about 7 years in domestic violence advocacy.  I loved doing anti-violence work.  I have a tremendous amount of passion for it and, frankly, I thought I was pretty good at it.  Plus, the women (and men, but mostly women, if we’re honest) that I got to know in my years doing that work are incredible, both co-workers and program participants.  You see some amazing spirit and humanity in that work.  When I left it a year and a half ago, it was one of the most difficult decisions I had to make.

I left for a combination of reasons.  As much as it pains me to admit it, one of the biggest ones was money.  I don’t work for money the way some people might, but I was flailing with debts racking up, student loan bills growing, and my weekly paychecks stagnantly low (I could write a tirade on the pay rates for people who do that and similar work, let me tell you).  It wasn’t sustainable and I needed to make a move to keep from drowning.

So I did.

Finished in dish 5 - edited

I looked outside of the field, at other focuses within human service work that might allow me to create a more stable economical platform with which to build my life on.  I ended up landing the job with seniors and people living with disabilities.  The financial change was significant and I’ve learned a great deal of valuable information about systems I didn’t know much at all about before, but the truth of the matter is that it doesn’t ignite the same fire in me that my old work did.

But sometimes careers take interesting turns.

The job I’ve been in is part of a larger entity (a government entity, to be precise) and one very small part of that entity is a unit that does domestic violence work.  When I saw a rare opening posted in that unit, I didn’t have much expectation it would pan out, but it has.  So, today, I return to familiar work, in a new environment.

My work will be less direct service than I did before and will involve more time spent supporting others who are doing direct service work.  I’m pretty excited about it, really.  I get to return to a field that really matters to me, maintain a sustainable income, and put a new spin on work that I feel really comfortable doing.  I hope it’s not too good to be true!

On plated with bread 3 - edited

Now, let’s get on to the recipe.  For me, this recipe has some of the same qualities as what I am experiencing with this job change.  This dish is warm, comforting, and something about feels familiar despite this having been the first time I’ve made it.  Yet, it’s also kind of new and exciting.  The brightness from the lemon adds a zing that contrasts (but harmonizes with) the hearty comfort of the dish.  I loved eating this fresh from the oven and for leftovers throughout the week.

I hope you will too.

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Lemony Lentil, Orzo, and Broccoli Bake

Adapted from Vegetarian Times Finished in dish 4 - edited

Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 tblspns olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 medium head of broccoli, stem discarded (or saved for veggie stock!), chopped
  • 1 tspn red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry brown lentils, picked through and rinsed
  • 1 tblspn chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tblspn chopped fresh basil
  • 3 cups low-sodium or homemade vegetable stock
  • 6 oz (1 cup) dry orzo
  • 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained
  • Juice of one medium lemon
  • 1 tspn lemon zest
  • ½ tspn kosher salt
  • ¼ tspn black pepper
  • 1 – 1 ¼ cups hot water
  • 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tblspns chopped fresh Italian parsley

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a 3-quart casserole dish by coating lightly with cooking spray.
  2. In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat ½ tblspn olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and carrots to pot and cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes (stir often).
  3. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring almost constantly, for 1 minute.
  4. Add lentils, thyme, and basil to the pot and stir to distribute.  Add broth and lemon juice.  Bring mixture to a simmer.  Then, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. After 20 minutes, add in the chopped broccoli and stir.  Re-cover and let broccoli soften 2-3 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat.  Add to pot the lemon zest, the drained tomatoes, orzo, salt, and pepper and stir until everything is well combined.  Pour all contents into the prepared casserole dish.  If needed, pour just enough hot water over mixture to ensure orzo is covered with liquid.  Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile combine the breadcrumbs, 1 tblspn olive oil, and parsley in a small bowl.  Mix well.
  8. After the first 20 minutes of baking, remove foil and sprinkle breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top.  Return to oven and bake, uncovered, for 20 more minutes.  Let sit 5 minutes or so before serving.