Recipe Review

I Tried Caramelized Lemon Butter Orzo with Kale and Garlic Breadcrumbs and It Was the Tastiest Dish I’ve Had in a While

published Aug 10, 2022
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I Tried Caramelized Lemon Butter Orzo with Kale and Garlic Breadcrumbs
Credit: Cheryl Fenton

I have a love-hate relationship with lemons. While smitten with the flavor and their bright yellow pop of cheer, I never feel like I’m using them in the most efficient way. I zest and toss. I juice and toss. It’s such a waste. Not to mention, it’s been said that some of a lemon’s healthy doses of iron, potassium, fiber, and vitamin C gets lost when you just use its juice. 

Private chef and recipe developer Sara Tane apparently feels the same way. Why else would she have created her Caramelized Lemon Butter Orzo with Kale and Garlic Breadcrumbs recipe — a wonderful dish that uses the entire lemon (except for the seeds, of course)?

“It may seem odd to use the whole lemon, but I think it’s what makes this dish extra zesty and acidic, the Kitchn contributor relays in her post. But even before her bit of convincing, I was on board with this recipe from the get-go.

How to Make Caramelized Lemon Butter Orzo with Kale and Garlic Breadcrumbs

While this meal creates quite a few dishes (following her advice of reusing pots does cut down the number), it also combines quite a few flavors and textures — which is a trade off, in my opinion. The orzo has its smooth taste, while the kale and Parmesan carry along a bit of bite to balance it out. The superstar is the caramelized lemon butter, a nutty and bright flavor that coats the orzo and kale in lemony goodness. 

Credit: Cheryl Fenton

Making the butter is very simple: chop an entire lemon, zest and pith included, and simmer it with butter until it reaches a lovely yellow, creamy consistency. 

For the main part of the dish, during the last minute of cooking al dente orzo in a large pot of boiling salted water, toss in de-stemmed and coarsely chopped kale leaves before submerging with a wooden spoon to wilt. Drain the combo and place into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and pour over the lemon butter, and toss to combine.

The dish is finished off with garlic breadcrumbs — a simple preparation of melting butter, adding panko breadcrumbs, and toasting until they’re golden brown. Mix in grated garlic, a prep method that actually maintains the flavor better than minced. It’s important to note, however, that garlic is easy to overcook, which is why this is an off-heat add-in.

My Honest Opinion of Caramelized Lemon Butter Orzo with Kale and Garlic Breadcrumbs

Very rarely does stirring something on the stovetop make me smile, but when the butter turned into a bright and sunny, thick and creamy sauce, that’s exactly what I did. There’s also something about the intense lemon that makes this dish a refreshing summer one, whether served warm or cold. This recipe will absolutely be on repeat throughout the summer for a quick blast of sunshine (and maybe into the winter for those snowy dreary days).

Credit: Cheryl Fenton

6 Tips for Making Caramelized Lemon Butter Orzo with Kale and Garlic Breadcrumbs

  1. Be sure to de-stem your kale. You can do this by running your kale through the hole at the end of your set of tongs. You’re welcome. 
  2. Keep an eye on the breadcrumbs. You’ll want to watch the breadcrumbs while you’re browning them, as they can burn very easily. 
  3. Switch it up a bit. Add in a little protein with chunks of chicken to give it a little upgrade.
  4. Indulge in the leftovers. This dish is great the next day cold, so save leftovers for lunch. 
  5. Don’t skip the rinse. Make sure to give the lemon a rinse under cold water before cutting it, and remove all the seeds.
  6. Choose whatever green you’d like. While I used curly kale, your green choice is up to you. Try it with lacinato kale, mustard greens, or even Swiss chard.

Still on a lemon binge? Try washing your meal down with this easy lemon drop martini. And if you’re looking to try a similar dish, this lemony chicken and artichoke orzo is also another great summer meal.