Monday, May 9, 2011
Orzo with Roasted Vegetables
Spring has been beautiful here in California. Where I'm staying, it's actually nicer now than it will probably be at the start of summer. June can sometimes get very gloomy in the mornings, with the sun only beginning to poke through the clouds in the afternoon. I'm sure that still beats the weather in some other parts of the world, but considering the fact that this is "sunny" California, gloomy morning are not welcome. So for that reason, I'm enjoying every minute of spring sunshine and making meals that can easily be eaten and served outside.
This orzo is perfect side dish for any picnic, barbecue, or outdoor meal. It combines pasta with veggies and cheese in a way that does not feel heavy (like some pasta dishes do). I've even had it as a main course and been more than happy to call it a meal. However, for all the extreme carnivores out there, just throw some meat on the grill, serve this as a side, and you'll be set. This dish tastes great the next day too and can be served at room temperature or cold (I don't usually re-heat it when I have it the next day).
The recipe can be changed endlessly. First off, I'm too lazy to peel my veggies before I roast them, and I see no reason for doing so. If you don't like eggplants, use zucchini. If you want more veggies, add them. If you want more orzo, you can double the amount and have fewer vegetables. The original recipe is heavy on the olive oil, so I always cut that back a bit. This will still yield lots of dressing, but the eggplant and orzo soak up the flavors really well. The recipe calls for toasted pine nuts on top. I'm personally not a fan of this step, but other people who have had this like the crunch, so I'll leave it up to you. Play around with this if you don't like a specific element. It will probably taste great with any variety of roasted veggies.
Adapted from Ina Garten
Total time: 40 to 45 minutes (mainly roasting time)
1 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4" pieces
1 red pepper, cut into 1" pieces
1 yellow pepper, cut into 1 " pieces
1 red onion, peeled cut into 1" pieces
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil, divided in half (depending on your preference)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1 teaspoons pepper, divided
1/2 pound orzo (I sometimes use 3/4)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 medium lemons)
3/4 pound feta cheese, cut into 1/2" pieces
4 scallions, finely chopped (white and green parts)
15 basil leaves, cut into julienne
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 425F. On a large baking sheet, toss the eggplant, peppers, onion and garlic with one half of the olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 40 minutes, making sure to turn the vegetables half way through. When they are browned and soft, they will be ready.
In the meantime, cook the orzo for about 8 minutes, or until done (just like any other pasta). Drain and put it into your serving bowl. Begin making the dressing by whisking together the other half of the oil, lemon juice, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
Add the roasted vegetables over the orzo, pour in all of the roasting juices. Next, pour the dressing over the veggies and orzo. Gently mix everything together. When the dish comes to room temperature, add the scallions, feta, basil and pine nuts (if using). Toss everything together, and serve (feel free to add more salt and pepper, if desired).
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