I love anytime a dish surprises me—whether it’s an ingredient pairing that worked beautifully despite my raised eyebrow at the combination, or, in this case, when a dish tastes way better than I would have expected in the amount of time it actually took to make it. The second testing of this recipe resulted in one of those moments—one where I couldn’t quite resist taking one more spoonful from the pot *just* to make sure it was seasoned correctly.
As it’s simple and short in its ingredient list, I found after my first attempt that the recipe needed a little something to round it out. It was close, but not quite there yet. So the second time around, I added some soy sauce to the tomatoes and green beans, before tossing in the orzo. This gave it a depth of flavor and a splash of umami, turning something so minimal and easy into something worthy of seconds. Superhero ingredients like soy sauce, fish sauce, or tomato or harissa pastes are key to making flavorful weeknight meals, cutting down on time but not sacrificing flavor.
This dish also has each of its few ingredients perform at its best: Burst tomatoes give everything a light tomato coating without being too saucy; melting in half of the feta along with the orzo gives it a creamy texture without being too heavy. That final sprinkle of feta is for good measure, plus it adds a color contrast and a final touch of tang. On the subject of feta, I tend to prefer Bulgarian in the brine as it’s creaminer and tangier than some of its other counterparts and these are two of its characteristics that are drawn on for this dish. While shopping, keep in mind that, as a loose rule, hunks of feta in the brine tends to be a bit creamier than vacuum-sealed ones.
If you want to make some swaps and spin this dish your own way, note that asparagus can easily be swapped for the green beans, and the mint can be replaced with other herbs like basil or cilantro. Enjoy as-is hot out of the pan for a WFH lunch, or make extra and save some leftovers, as they’ll taste great cold the next day. This dish would also shine beautifully as a side dish for grilled or pan-cooked seafood or meat, either for your own dinner or to or bring to a picnic or outdoor hang. —yasminfahr
- Prep time 10 minutes
- Cook time 15 minutes
- Serves 4
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
fresh green beans, trimmed and halved crosswise (not lengthwise, where the green bean is split open)
grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
red pepper flakes, or to taste
low-sodium soy sauce
small lemon, juiced
fresh mint, both leaves and tender stems, roughly chopped or torn
Freshly ground black pepper
- Salt a large pot of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the orzo and cook until just tender with a little firmness to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain in a colander and drizzle with olive oil, mixing to coat. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12-inch cast-iron or heavy-weight skillet over medium-high heat. Add the green beans, season with salt, and let cook without moving until they start to sizzle and sound like they will pop, 2 ½ to 3 minutes, so that they get contact with the pan and blister on one side. Stir, then add the tomatoes, seasoning with salt and red-pepper flakes. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until the green beans are crisp-tender and the tomatoes burst, 4 to 6 minutes more.
- Reduce the heat to low, then add the soy sauce, stirring to combine and letting the liquid reduce, about 1 minute more. Pour in the orzo, lemon juice, and half the feta and stir so the feta melts. Take the pan off the heat and garnish with the remaining feta and mint. Season with pepper to taste and serve.