Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Mask of Orzo

I eat a lot of pasta. At the supermarket I stock up on a variety of different shapes, like spaghetti, linguine, penne, fusilli, farfalle, and so on. And then there are those small little shapes off to the side, usually reserved for soup, with names like ditalini and anellini. I rarely peruse those players -- except for orzo.

That little one pound box packed to the gills with rice-like pasta is one I replenish again and again. It's cheap, tasty, versatile and it feels really nice in your mouth. In college, my housemate would make a simple dish of orzo, olive oil, peas, and Parmesan, and I've been a convert since.

And because I'm automatically drawn to recipes that feature orzo, I have a few up my apron sleeves that I'm happy to share with you.

The dish above, believe it or not, has artichoke hearts somewhere in that bowl. The recipe comes from a 2006 Gourmet and it's a quick and simple lunch option: orzo, artichoke hearts, lemon zest, and toasted pine nuts in a light vinaigrette. Eaten warm or at room temperature it's a nice brown bagger for those of us stuck in the zoo that is Bryant Park in the summer.

Another favorite orzo recipe is Mark Bittman's orzo risotto from How to Cook Everything, and it's become my mainstay side to roast chicken, sauteed fish, or braised anything at all. The dish captures the creamy richness of regular risotto, but is far less heavy and about the half the work.

And finally, a lovely summer dish of orzo, feta, dill and tomato -- also from Gourmet. Served with grilled shrimp or scallops, it's a light, enticing, and all-together satisfying meal.

Orzo with Artichokes and Lemon Zest
(from the May 2006 Gourmet)

1 1/2 cups orzo
3 T. pine nuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
1 can artichoke hearts, not marinated, 14 oz.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 t. freshly grated lemon zest

Cook orzo until al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile drain artichoke hearts and rinse well. Pull off leaves from bases of the hearts and quarter bases. Rinse leaves and bases well, then drain.

Stir together oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Add orzo, pine nuts, artichokes, parsley, and zest and toss to combine.

Orzo "Risotto"
(adapted from Mark Bittman)

2 T. butter or olive oil
1 onion, minced
3 cups stock (chicken, beef, or vegetable), plus 1/2 cup more if needed
1 1/2 cups orzo
1 cup Parmesan
1/2 cup parsley leaves, minced

Place butter in saucepan and turn heat to medium. When foam subsides, add onion and cook until it becomes translucent. Meanwhile, heat stock in separate pan.

Add orzo to the onion and stir. Add salt and pepper and the stock -- all at once. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low.

Cook, stirring every few minutes if necessary, until the liquid is absorbed and the orzo is tender, about 15 minutes. If the orzo is underdone, add more hot water or stock and cook for 5 more minutes. Stir in half the Parmesan and parsley. Garnish with the remaining parsley and serve, passing the remaining cheese at the table.

Orzo with Feta, Tomatoes, and Dill
(from the July 2008 Gourmet)

3 T. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup dill
1 t. grated lemon zest
1 cup orzo
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta

Toss oil, tomatoes, dill, zest, and 1/2 t. each salt and pepper together in a serving bowl. Let stand at least 10 minutes.

Meanwhile cook orzo in boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and toss with tomato mixture. Add the feta and toss once more.


Megan said...

I love orzo too! And I especially love that Gourmet recipe with the tomatoes, feta, and dill. I've brought it to parties, and it's definitely a crowd pleaser. Can't wait to try the artichoke recipe you posted!

Andrea said...

What a delicious post!

CRD said...

The Mask of Orzo! I totally get this Zorro Reference.

Paris By Appointment Only said...

Couldn't agree more about orzo. Always have some stocked in the pantry. Dying to try the college era concoction you described. Will invite Steven over for dinner to complete the picture. Bises, Zeva.

Bri said...

Yum! I always cook it and then toss it with tuna, red onions, fresh dill, salt, pepper, capers and a little bit of olive oil. It's delicious.

Esmeralda said...

wat is orzo classifided as?.. lik a pasta fruit?..