In the kitchen, as in other realms, a reliable formula can feel like a lifeline, providing a needed semblance of order and predictability to the world. You plug variables into a tried-and-true pattern and you wind up with consistently good results. That’s what this orzo skillet dinner has been for me for years, a trail guide for a tasty, healthful, one-pan meal that is adaptable to the ingredients I have on hand. I can’t imagine a time when it’s needed more.

The dish pivots around the orzo. If you have that, you can riff on the rest using the basic framework that follows. (I use whole-grain orzo, but regular works perfectly, too. Other small pasta shapes or grains such as rice would also be likely to work, but the cook time and liquid needed for those would probably differ.)

First, heat an allium in oil – here I use an onion, but you could opt for leeks, shallots, garlic, scallions or a combination of those. Add the orzo to the skillet and stir to coat it in the oil and toast it lightly, then add water and/or broth and simmer until the pasta is about halfway cooked. Toss in a few cups of tender vegetables and herbs – for this iteration I used peas, spinach and dill, but grape tomatoes, chopped asparagus, green beans, kale, Swiss chard or even frozen vegetables would work, as would any fresh, tender herb or, instead, a teaspoon or two of dried herbs. A squeeze of lemon juice adds a bright acidity, but a splash of white wine vinegar, lime or orange works, too.

Then comes the seafood – my usual is chunks of salmon – but any firm, fresh fish fillet would work, as would shrimp, scallops or even flakes of canned salmon or tuna. To make the dish vegetarian, you could add a drained can of beans instead.

A finishing sprinkle of briny feta on top makes the dish for me, but you could substitute soft goat cheese, or go for some sliced olives or capers to add a salty punch instead.

This recipe is fulfilling and packed with fresh spring flavors as written, but I hope you see it as a template to accommodate a range of ingredients. Just make sure to pick up some orzo next time you are at the store.

• • •

ORZO SKILLET WITH SALMON, PEAS, DILL AND FETA

This healthful, one-pan meal is brimming with tender green vegetables and chunks of fresh salmon, all cooked along with the orzo pasta they are nestled in. The dish is lemony and herbaceous and is dreamy with a briny sprinkle of feta cheese melted in at the end, for a fast, fresh and fulfilling meal. From nutritionist and cookbook author Ellie Krieger.

30 minutes

4-6 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced (1 cup)

1 1/2 cups whole-grain orzo

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

1 1/4 cups water, or more as needed

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

2 cups (2 ounces), lightly packed, chopped fresh spinach leaves

1 cup peas, fresh or frozen

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 pounds skinless salmon fillet, cut into 1-inch chunks

1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Steps

In a large, deep skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the orzo and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes more. Add the broth, water and 1/4 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the orzo is about halfway cooked, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the spinach, peas, dill, lemon juice, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and the pepper and cook until the spinach is just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Nestle the fish into the orzo, then cover and cook, stirring once or twice, until the fish is cooked on the outside but still quite rare inside, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons water to the pan if it seems dry.

Sprinkle the feta over the top, cover and continue to cook until the cheese softens and the fish is cooked to your liking, 2 to 4 minutes more. Serve right away.

Nutrition (based on 6 servings) | Calories: 563; Total Fat: 32 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 389 mg; Carbohydrates: 38 g; Dietary Fiber: 9 g; Sugars: 3 g; Protein: 31 g.

Ellie Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television’s “Ellie’s Real Good Food.” 


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