Caramelized lemons infuse this Lemon Orzo with sweet citrusy vibrance from the very first step. You'll start by sautéing lemons in olive oil, then crisping up hearty veggies in the infused oil. Whole wheat orzo brings a nutty flavor that perfectly compliments the woody veggies. A final layer of flavor is added with fresh zest at the very end. A subtle but balanced lemony affair awaits!
Zest a whole lemon and set the zest aside. Slice the lemon into 1/4" rounds. prep portobello mushrooms, asparagus, leek, and garlic.
Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat. Add one tablespoon olive oil and heat until it shimmers. Add the lemon slices in a single layer; sautee until caramelized, 4-5 minute. Flip the lemon slices and sautee until the other side is caramelized, 1-2 minutes. Remove the lemons slices using tongs and set aside.
Add a second tablespoon of olive oil to the pot. Add the mushrooms and asparagus to the pan, then toss to coat in the oil. Sautee, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are browned and crispy and the asparagus is charred and starting to soften, 10 minutes. Add additional olive oil as needed if the pan gets too dry. Remove the vegetables using a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the remaining half tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Add the leeks and garlic. Sautee, stirring occasionally, until the leeks soften, 5 minutes.
Add the orzo to the pan, along with the salt, pepper and oregano. Stir to incorporate the orzo into the leeks and toast the pasta, 1-2 minutes.
Pour in the broth, return the caramelized lemon slices to the pot, and give everything a good stir. Increase the heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Check on the orzo to ensure the pasta is cooked through and no liquid remains. If not, continue cooking an additional 1-2 minutes.
Fish out the lemon slices. Return the sautéed mushrooms and asparagus to the pot, along with the frozen peas and reserved lemon zest. Stir the vegetables into the orzo and heat until warmed through, 2-3 minutes.
Taste the pasta for seasoning, and add additional salt and pepper if needed. Ladle into bowls and serve immediately. Leftovers keep in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 3 days.