Toasted Orzo Risotto with Sweet Corn and Thyme

Toasted orzo risotto is a light, summer pasta dish that’s easy to prepare.

Toasted Orzo Risotto with Sweet Corn and Thyme ~ Savory Simple

I’m working on a menu project with several health coaches and we have regular phone meetings.  The meetings often begin with the question “What are you present to right now?”  We go around in a circle and discuss what we’re present to, or what’s on our mind at the moment.  As I sat down to write this post and drew a blank, I asked myself the same question.

Time for a little bit of honesty.  Sometimes I struggle with what to talk about on this blog outside of the recipe.  I feel pressure to share a witty anecdote or moving story because that’s such a big aspect of food blogging.  I worry that my site (and therefore my recipes) won’t be perceived as well if I don’t open up about myself 2-3 times per week.  That people won’t connect with me.  It’s not that I can’t write or tell a story and I’m not really a private person.  Maybe it’s that I don’t think my day-to-day life is interesting enough to share?  Here’s what today looked like:  I woke up at 7am and caught up on internet news while enjoying some coffee.  I spent about an hour commenting on other blogs and then got started on work.  At 11am I took a break to workout, shower and have some lunch.  And then I worked for the rest of the day while my cat kept me company.  Yesterday was exactly the same except that I also prepared this toasted orzo risotto and took photos of it for the blog.  I don’t think of any of this as being particularly exciting or worthy of sharing.  I also don’t mean to sound bored or complacent.  I love my job and I love my life.  I probably would have had more to talk about several years ago when I was single and less satisfied with my career.  I certainly never ran out of anything to talk about in my LiveJournal days! PS- it doesn’t exist anymore so don’t bother ;)

Do you judge a food blog by the quality of its recipes or the prose?  Do you need it to have both to be a truly satisfying read?  What brings you back?  These aren’t rhetorical questions, I’m actually curious to know the answer.  Maybe it’s because I feel pressure to share that I often draw a blank when it’s time to create a new post.  I certainly don’t struggle with new ideas for recipes.  Bloggers, do you struggle with this?  If so, how do you deal with it?  Thanks for listening, everyone.  That is what I’m present to.


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Toasted Orzo Risotto with Sweet Corn and Thyme

Toasted orzo risotto is a light, summer pasta dish that's easy to prepare.

Course: Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 2 entrees or 4 side dishes
Author: Jennifer Farley
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup shallots, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 1 ear of sweet corn (approximately 3/4 cup kernels)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 sprigs of thyme, leaves only (plus more for garnish)
  • 1 3/4 water or homemade stock
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • optional: Penzeys Sunny Paris Spice
  • optional: 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  1. In a saucepan, melt down the butter over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and sweat until translucent, then add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.
  2. Add the orzo to the pan and turn the heat up to medium. Allow the orzo to toast while stirring. You can go lighter or heavier with the toasting. As the orzo browns, it will develop a nutty flavor.
  3. Turn down the heat back down to medium-low and stir in the corn kernels, lemon juice and thyme.
  4. Add 1/4 cup of water. Stir frequently to prevent the orzo from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As the water absorbs, continue to add more in 1/4 cup increments until there's approximately 1/4 cup remaining.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in the rest of the water, pine nuts (if using) and seasonings.
  6. Garnish with thyme and serve.
Recipe Notes

I love Penzeys Spices. Their spice blends are especially great and Sunny Paris is one of my favorites. It's great on eggs, pasta, pizza, etc. The ingredients are dried shallots, chives, green peppercorns, dill weed, basil, tarragon, chervil and bay leaf.

This is not a sponsored statement :)


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  • Hi Jen,

    To answer some of your question, what brings me back are the recipes. I love to read and try new recipes, the blogs by themselves are secondary and most of the time I do not have the time to read them, so don’t sweat, this is about good food…..and thanks for sharing your culinary creations.


  • I find you very creative with your recipes / ingredients and that truly draws me to your blog, apart from just the prose. Thank you for expressing your thoughts in this post. I am right there with you and believe the curiosity to understand what the reader is looking for is for sure a sign that you care about your readers and a strive at doing the best. Again, thank you for the wonderful posts and awesome recipes. You are truly awesome in what you do.

  • Recipes bring me back to blogs although I usually connect with the individual and not the writing. I see commonalities and keep coming back for more. I don’t need to hear about your dog dying, your husbands love of fishing, or what you ate all day long. I just want to hear a little bit about why food connects us, and why we should try a recipe, etc. This isn’t a country song. It’s blogging. It’s a never ending creativity fest! But maybe that is just me. :-)

    • That makes sense. I don’t need to hear a whole story but it’s nice to have a sense of who’s sharing the recipe.

  • I think it is both. Sometimes, I skip through the story and go right for the recipe. But if it is a blog I read regularly, I like reading the stories and feeling a connection with the writer.

    • I do the same thing sometimes and then feel guilty because I assume the writer is putting as much thought into their commentary as I do.

  • Thanks for posting your thoughts. It is enlightening reading the other comments. As a fellow food blogger who writes mainly on restaurant reviews, and recently expanded to write on my cooking at home adventures, I have the same curiosities as you! I often wonder what brings the reader back. I do not have the prettiest food pictures, or most creative recipes, as many many other blogs do, so I often wonder what can set me apart.

  • I think it’s a mix for me. I like looking at what you’ve created, but I do enjoy your little anecdotes and stories. And I’m the same way. I haven’t been blogging as much as I’d like to because I’m struggling with the “introduction” to the recipe. And maybe we are putting too much pressure on ourselves to be witty and charming, thinking that this will somehow gain popularity for us. High school, anyone? But perhaps we simply need to let the recipe do the talking and relax and realize that inspiration will come. I think we forget that boring can be beautiful, too. :)

  • I absolutely struggle with my blog posts – but that’s why I don’t post frequently. My personal style is commentary followed by a recipe. Like, a LOT of commentary about the ridiculous things I do. The recipe is often a post-script. But that works for me, and my readers seem to like that. I see other people trying the same thing, and it’s a total flop. You need to stay true to you. If that’s gorgeous photos, a kick-ass recipe and note about your cat? Money.

  • Great recipe! Personally I like to see good photography and read an interesting (sometimes humorous) piece of writing. I definitely think that a personal story, anecdote or thought is a bonus ;-)

  • Jen, you’re not alone. The only reason I don’t post more often is because aside from the recipe, I can’t think of what to write about. Sometimes I sit and stare at a wordless post for 20+ minutes, just trying to think of something…anything to say. It’s literally like pulling teeth. (The fact that I’m a lousy typist and overzealous comma user, doesn’t help either.) ;)

    I thought I was the only food blogger who struggled with this, so thanks for bringing it up. Your posts are always fun to read. And your photos are always send my stomach off on a noisy, hungry, rampage. This risotto looks scrumptious! Pine nuts should be used much more often in recipes.

    • I’ve been trying to work on my comma overuse! I think that’s a pretty common problem. From the responses I’m seeing, we’re not along in our struggles :)

  • It it hard to be funny and interesting all the time. My biggest struggle is time, as in, I have none. As a small business owner, I do it all and I love blogging, it’s just that free time gets in the way.

    • Time is definitely a factor! I’m still working on time management and figuring how to squeeze everything in.

  • Blog about the things you like, however little or seemingly unimportant. Talk over your dinner table and make people laugh, gasp or cry with you. All of it’s interesting once the thoughts start flowing and melting into words.

  • I love this dish – so refreshing and pretty! As far as blogging, I just find it easier to comment beyond saying “it looks yummy” if the author asks a question and invites into the conversation. It doesn’t even have to be funny topic. Just life. You have a lovely blog, Jen and I always enjoy stopping by!

    • That is such a greta point. I don’t usually ask questions and I’m getting much more meaningful responses on this entry. I will have to keep that in mind in the future.

  • as a reader in general i like reading STORIES and if it somehow connects to a recipe then i’m more likely to respond and return. i’ll be honest, i rarely read a recipe, i read the post and look at the pix. it isn’t until i’m actually going to make the item or if there is something of note (like a random ingredient or a cooking method) that i read the recipe thru. this reflects my recipe writing, i’m very flippant and sometimes entirely too lax with it.

    from the flipside of being a blogger, i try to gauge (read: GUESS) what my readers want: do they want to just look at pix (most of my friends are like that) or do they actually read the stories (i would say only a handful of people do). so i try to keep a happy medium between the two.

    i take for granted that you and i are in real life friends, so i know that i can just ping or text you for the 411 about what you’re up to and such. if we weren’t friends, i would still be interested in knowing a small snippet of your life, however trivial you may think it is, i’m sure there are genuine moments that random people like myself would identify with.

    • Something about being friends IRL makes me like reading your stories even more than others. It’s like having a more inside scoop or something, I can’t think of how else to explain it.

  • Hi Jennifer, You are not alone. I have struggled with this same challenge ever since I started blogging. There are times when I have a story to tell and the words come easily, but there are also times where I struggle for several days to figure out what to write about. A few months ago I decided to invest in some coaching with Jess Lively (formerly Jess Constable) who specializes in business coaching and helping people and businesses live with intention. During our talk, I discovered that I excel more at teaching/instruction than I do storytelling, so that is the writing approach I am taking with my blog. I will still tell a story if I have one, but I am also more of a private person, so all of my personal life’s details will not be shared on my blog. The one important thing that I constantly force myself to do is to keep writing. My writing isn’t award-winning by any means, but I work on it diligently and practicing will always bring improvement. It is easy to get discouraged in blogging because it seems like everyone else has better photography/writing/cooking/baking/marketing skills, but if we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others, we will be paralyzed and never be able to tap into our own unique creativeness. The best part of blogs is remembering that everyone has something special to share with the world!

    • I really like the idea of teaching when I don’t have a story. It sounds so obvious yet I don’t think of it. Focus on an ingredient, a technique…

  • I think a great read is all good and well, but the most important things are good, consistent recipes. This orzo looks fabulous! One last hoorah for summer corn!

  • I think that great photos and sensible recipes keep me coming back to the blogs that I read. I do enjoy getting to know the blogger a little more, but you don’t have to spill your deep dark secrets to get me to come back. In fact, I think too much information would most likely turn me away!

    With food bloggers, it’s fun to know where they are coming from when it comes to their philosophy on cooking and recipe creation. What motivates you? Why do you choose the ingredients that you do? Are you interested in a special diet or lifestyle? These are the questions that I hope the food blogger will answer…

  • Oh wow, this sounds amazing – such a great use of the fresh local corn that’s in season, too. To answer some of your questions – i do love a witty story or anecdote, but the recipe is the main reason that i read food blogs. I get to know a lot of my blogger friends through twitter + facebook, so if their posts don’t have a ton of ‘back story,’ it doesn’t bother me, because I feel like I’m already getting to know them another way. =)

  • I come back for YOU. There is always a bright note in your voice and an infectious enthusiasm towards cooking. The recipes are always interesting and diverse. You also post a lot of healthy recipes, which I really appreciate. Your photographs are also wonderful. (In fact, you might consider a post about your photography. What equipment do you use? How did your craft evolve? Tips? etc.) What ties it all together is you and your personality, and that’s why people read you – regardless of how much or how little you have to say. BTW, because of my work and life demands, I have had to limit the number of blogs I can read. You are one of only four food bloggers I consistently follow. (The other three are David Lebovitz, Lucy Vanel and Ina Garten. Not bad company!)

  • First, I love this recipe – orzo is one of my favorites and this is simply a beautiful dish!! Second, I adore you personally and your blog and that’s why I read…you always offer unique recipes that truly appeal to me! I read some blogs because I really adore the person behind the blog but sometimes I read solely for the recipes too. I don’t think that I would take the time to read a blog just for the good writing, though, I read blogs mostly for the food and the good writing just happens to come along with it most of the time.

  • All of those are excellent questions that I struggle with for my blog nearly every day. The Orzo is BEAUTIFUL! I enjoy a good story now and then on a post but it is not required every time. I think you would have to be a natural born novelist to do THAT 2-3 times a week.

  • I love your blog because I know I’m going to see awesome recipes and photos with a small description of the recipe. It’s right to the point. That’s what makes your blog your blog. I love other blogs for other reasons. Every recipe I post comes along with some kind of usually rather long story or essay because while I love my blog, I really want to be a writer, so each post is an opportunity for me to share my thoughts and writing with the world. I hope people can appreciate my blog for what it is, as I hope they can do the same for yours and all the others out there. I love that pretty much every blog I look at is quite different from the next; it would be boring if they were all the same.

  • Love your honesty, Jen! There’s some days that an anecdote comes easily, especially if a recipe is based on a childhood memory or a favorite treat from a vacation, etc. Other times it’s much harder to come up with something original and, in those instances, I tend to keep things simple and fairly direct. (BTW, I bet that LJ would have been a good read ;)). As for this risotto, I love that you used orzo – what a fun twist!

  • I love the new recipe, but I love your honesty and openness more. As a foodblogger fro about a year-and-a-half, i too struggle with those same thoughts. I guess it’s very common with people who do this kind of thing. Who you are, and your warmth comes through on your blog. I think readers are satisfied with that, and that’s why they keep coming back!

  • Real talk! I do enjoy real talk, but what I find most appealing is the food. I am finding if I don’t connect with a recipe, or the ingredients I am not as likely to be interested. Just like Paula said… Sometimes I honestly so true story want to write, Hi, make it, eat it, you will like it, good bye. And the funny thing is, I have but maybe in like 8 sentences. I really enjoy you sharing your day, and I don’t think they are boring:), and I like your writing AND recipes. I trust them, which is important. Bottom line also, it’s what comes naturally that I find appealing, if it is forced sharing, I can tell, and I am less likely to read the whole post, which I hate. I always read the whole post and then comment. It’s a must for me.

  • Hi Jen,

    I love your blog because I love your recipes…and I love your journey. Your recipes are always creative and interesting and your journey is inspiring and something I hope I can do one day, too.

    So keep on with it all…because you’ve found a great balance!

  • Fabulous recipe! I love orzo and so do my kids so I have to try this. Great post too. I share the same feelings with you. I think many of us follow blogs that entice us with their photography and recipes (like yours), and that is what keeps us hungry for more. :)

  • First of all, your recipe looks great and I’ve always wanted to try orzo. Secondly, I’ve been blogging about what I eat for coming up on 6 months now, and I used to feel a lot of pressure, but eventually just said, eh, who cares… I wasn’t even sure if anyone was reading my posts anyway. Since I started having that attitude, my writing has been a lot more natural. If I don’t have a story to share, then I just don’t and I talk about the food.

    What keeps me coming back to a blog is mainly the photos and recipes. That being said, I really do like getting to know people through their stories as well… but overall, it’s all about the food… right?!

  • The topic or the recipe itself is what keeps me coming back to your blog. All blogs are different of course, but yours has such good recipes that are so thoughtful and sophisticated-yet simple! My advice, if u find yourself stressing at all, don’t post it, there’s no way to please everyone, and surely what you end up posting will please some, if not many, no matter what it is.

  • I come back to your blog for the gorgeous photos and straight-forward recipes. I return to food blogs for the food, not really the text with the exception of David Leibovitz. I don’t share a lot personally in my blog either. I acutally haven’t shared anything of late with starting a new job, traveling to the U.S., and a death in the family. But I do strive for great photos, reliable recipes, and historical information about Sweden and Swedish food/culture. Those are my goals for my blog. I don’t think anyone will really get to know me through that, but it’s not the point. My point is to share and inform about food and Sweden. Not me so much.

    That’s my two cents. Keep up the good work. I really find your photos inspiring.

  • i’m always struggling too with the introduction! but what keeps me coming back here is your food – it just so elegant and sophisticated, but also simple – it really inspires me! like this risotto, it is just so lovely!

  • So much openness in this post my friend, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I promise you we all feel like this at some point so you are not alone :)
    Beautiful orzo dish my friend, it looks delicious!

    Choc Chip Uru

  • I come back mostly because of the recipes but since frist impressions have a big effect on how we feel about something pictures play a huge role as well.

  • Is this corn cooked ahead or not? Sounds DELISH! I have an standard Orzo Mushroom Risotto that is awesome, and this is a great change-up!

  • I struggle with so many of the same things. I am SO not an “in the moment” person but my husband is and I’ve had to try to learn that from him so that I can be as present with our daughter as possible. AND I also worry about not being as open on my blog as I should be. It’s really brought up a wealth of self worth issues and forced me to deal with them. Which, I think is a good thing but a difficult process for sure.

    Oh, and Orzo Risotto?? I totally heart you for this.

  • Good recipe. I love thyme, and I love combining it with corn. Really good stuff. Re your questions, some blogs I read for the prose and just for the prose – there are some really amazing writers out there, and they could talk about making tennis balls (I subject I care about not at all) and I’d lap up every words. These bloggers are unusual – fewer than 1% of all blogs out there. Mainly I read blogs for the recipes. It’s always nice to learn something about the person – and if you have an amusing story that’s relevant, by all means share! – but over time you learn a lot just about how a person writes about things. Over time, everyone’s personality comes out. No need to force it, I say – just write about whatever you want.

  • Although you may think you don’t open up…your writing and your recipes do reveal so much of your personality…and I know that is what keeps people coming back for more. I love how creative you are here…and I love how thoughtful you are in the preparation and presentation of your posts. Thank you for being you. And this risotto? As always, stunning.

  • What a great post. You seem to echo a lot of how I feel and worse is that lately I just haven’t found the time to blog which makes me sad because I truly love it. To answer your questions, for me, it’s firstly about the food – if it’s like-minded recipes or passions that appeal to me, then as you begin to read the snippets, you feel like you get to know the blogger’s personalities, and that’s what makes me come back agin and again. Kind of like real life, I guess. And I think just sharing with others and reading the snippets from their life that makes mine feel richer :)

  • Beautiful orzo risotto dish- I can’t get enough corn ;-)
    Sometimes the writing flows sometimes it runs dry… I find blogging to be like real life, imagine that! I personally go for the short and sweet words related to the recipe unless I am particularly inspired to write more, sometimes I sit over the keyboard and feel like I’m trying to type a paper for high school english and want to pull out my hair-that’s the truth;-)

  • Hi Jen! I’m sure a lot of bloggers can relate to you, even those who write well. I tell my husband almost EVERY POST that I need to write “I don’t know what to write…”. Sometimes after that I write something and it is okay, but I always worry about my 2nd language English problem and content – both. There are food blogs which always have poetic introductions and just very pretty… but I just told myself I cannot produce something I’m not so good at and forget thinking about not being able to write. I hope one day my writing gets better, but meanwhile I just try to be honest and make it simple. And maybe some people like it to be simple and straightforward as everyone is too busy and want to get the point and good recipes. I consider my blog to be more of recipe collection rather than food photography or artistic/poetic site anyway… You are doing great, Jen. But I know how you were feeling and just wanted to say I think about the same thing too. :) I love your orzo risotto! You chose nice blue background that this risotto stands out really well (with the yellow accent). Make me want to eat it right away!

  • I know, it can be hard to come up with something for every single recipe! And of course you shouldn’t feel compelled to share something that you don’t want to. I find that if I am stuck, it can come to me when I’m having a shower or talking to a friend about what I’m making and that seems to help? Nevertheless, you’re doing a great job and you would never know that you feel that it’s sometimes a struggle :D

  • Darn that bloggers writing block! You have wonderful recipes and beautiful pictures that people keep coming back for. The words are a great insight into the story behind the food or a little bit more about you, but sometimes its ok to let the food just speak for itself. I have found doing that very hard as a blogger – to just be a little quieter and tell my story for the day through images instead of words. I love your blog and whatever balance you choose to strike for the day, I will be here to read/watch and enjoy that little slice!

  • What keeps me coming back are the beautiful photographs and that somehow, even though we haven’t personally met, you are one of the few food bloggers I know who graduated from the same school as me. That’s enough to feel connected to the content of your blog. I like to know what other LAC graduates are doing with their professional lives and feel intrigued and fascinated with the path taken. I also know that you are a culinary instructor and I would like to be a pastry instructor as soon as I get more experience, so there’s also that! I just like to know what you are up to for those reasons ;)

  • Jennifer,
    I made this tonight for dinner and had to come back and comment. It turned out so well! My husband was thrilled with it. I only made a couple of adjustments – I didn’t have fresh thyme so I used a little dried Herbs de Provence, and I used a little Every Day spice from Trader Joe’s instead of Penzey’s. I also added in a couple of already cooked diced chicken breast at the end to make it a meal.
    Also, on your comments above… I appreciate blogs like yours that do not focus on 40 pictures of one dish. I am tired of bloggers that take lots of pictures of a simple casserole just to take up space. I am interested in your story, but if you don’t feel like writing a lot, that’s ok too. Some days, we are too overwhelmed with our lives to share it with others. I mostly visit blogs for the recipe or craft or whatever. I hope you are doing well!

    • Hi Kim,

      Your comment means so much to me. Thank you! I love hearing about when people make my recipes and I’m so glad you liked this one. I bet Herbs de Provence worked perfectly. I also really appreciate your insight about what you like to read on food blogs. I have been slowly becoming more comfortable sharing my life and telling stories on the blog, but it’s comforting to know that sometimes I can just say “here’s the recipe, enjoy!”

      Take care :)