As a companion to yesterday’s dredged chicken, I’d like to offer you an idea for a side dish that can be made in MINUTES and is delicious – Mediterranean Orzo. I made this a few nights ago with my lovely sister, Emily, based on the pretense that I had very little in my fridge and didn’t feel like going to the store. The great thing about this dish is that it requires no cooking other than boiling the pasta and can be changed in lots of ways based on what you are serving with it. On this particular night I went with a Mediterranean flavor profile because, again, I had little else in my fridge. Here’s what I did:
First, I filled a medium pan with water, salted it heavily and turned it on high to boil. Here’s the thing about salting your water before you cook your pasta: it tastes better in the end if you do. Pasta has very little flavor in it, so if you create a sauce that has great flavor and put it on unsalted pasta your whole dish will turn out bland. Do yourself a favor and salt your water LIBERALLY before you throw in your pasta.
While the water was coming to a boil, I gathered up the things I wanted to use to add flavor and chopped them into small pieces. I wanted everything going into the pasta to be about the same size as the orzo itself so it would combine nicely.
Clockwise from the top left we have: one green onion, 2 tablespoons of capers (lets not laugh too hard here, you know I don’t measure), lemon wedges, chopped artichokes (jarred in water, not marinated. That stuff is full of chemicals and tastes poopy), and sundried tomatoes.
What else can the sun dry, I wonder?
Name that early 2000’s TV show!
So, as you can see, most of these ingredients can be kept for about 14 years in your fridge with very little wear and tear, which is why I keep them around. If you have a reasonable number of mix-ins in your fridge and pantry all the time you can make fast fake recipes (lets be honest, I wasn’t even really cooking at this point) and feed them to other people on a moment’s notice. I also got out (so that it was READY) some mascarpone cheese. Have you ever had mascarpone? It is a miracle. It is an italian “cheese” that is kind of like a cross between butter and cream cheese. It melts GLORIOUSLY and tastes like heavy cream. YES. It was ready.
Other add-ins that might have been good? Olives, feta or Parmesan cheese, lemon zest, garlic, fresh tomatoes, arugula, fresh chopped herbs….the sky’s the limit!
For this recipe (using the term loosely) I was cooking for two and used about 2/3 cup of uncooked pasta which made two LARGE portions. Don’t boil too much water for your pasta – it will get lost in a huge pot since it is a smaller cut of pasta. This 3 quart pot had about 4 inches of water in it and it was more than enough.
Once the water came to a boil I added the orzo and cooked it for …. however long it said to on the package. You’re an adult, figure that one out on your own.
So while I was taking too many pictures of boiling water, I drank 6 glasses of wine and made fun of my sister since my insanely easy “sauce” ingredients were already ready to go.
If you asked her she’d probably tell you that she was making fun of me, but this is my site and things happen the way I want them to up in here.
Once the pasta had cooked for the appropriate number of minutes I drained it…..
And put it back in the HOT pot (this is important, since you want every thing to get loosy-goosy and lovey-dovey once you mix it together, keep your burner on low) with the mascarpone, 3 tablespoons or so for two fat-kid portions.
And that’s it! Add more salt, lemon juice (if you went that route), pepper, or red-pepper flakes if you’re nuts about spicy food like me, and serve this alone as a great vegetarian meal or with some chicken or fish.