Friends recently invited us to dinner at a restaurant in nearby Monte Carlo which is run by a friend of theirs. I would describe the food as modern Mediterranean with an emphasis on wonderfully fresh seafood – our kind of restaurant.
We had the chef’s choice which seemed to involve one of everything on the menu. It was delicious but way too much food. Unfortunately doggie bags are so not the thing in Monte Carlo! One of the final dishes (served as a side dish) was delicious baked orzo which prompted my beloved to remind me that I hadn’t made one for him for some time.
Orzo (rice shaped pasta) is incredibly useful as it cooks quickly and is good both hot and cold. I often use it in a shrimp and lemon pasta salad – perfect for picnics. However, here’s my baked version which I whipped up hot for lunch and then we ate it again cold the following day. Both versions were equally delicious.
Ingredients (serves 4 hungry cyclists as a main, 6 as a side)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- half yellow onion, diced
- 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 80g (1 cup) kale, chopped
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 175g (1 cup) uncooked orzo
- 500g (1lb) cherry tomatoes and courgette (zucchini), chopped
- 200g (1 cup) cooked haricot beans or chickpeas
- 600ml (2 1/2 cups) vegetable stock or water
- (vegan) feta cheese, fresh lemon and parsley to serve
1.Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4 (350°F/325°F fan).
2. In a large oven-safe pan (skillet), heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and salt. Saute for 10 minutes or until soft, then add garlic, red pepper, red pepper flakes and tomatoes.
3. Saute for another approx. 10 minutes, then add courgettes and kale. Cook until the kale is wilted.
4. Add the orzo, beans or chickpeas and stock. Bring to a simmer before popping in the oven.
5. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the orzo is al dente. Don’t overcook it as it’ll continue to cook and absorb any stock/sauce in the pan once you take it out of the oven.
6. Finish by crumbling feta over the top, dusting with some fresh parsley, lemon juice, freshly ground black pepper and some extra virgin olive oil – enjoy.
7. It’ll keep happily in the fridge for a couple of days. Reheat or allow to come to room temperature if eating cold.
Sheree’s Handy Hints
1.You can play around with the ingredients just so long as you maintain the proportion of liquid to dried pasta. For example, in the winter months I might make this with a tin/jar of tomatoes bolstered with a couple of tablespoons of tomato paste and just 480-500ml (2 cups) of stock.
2. Feel free to replace the kale with another green, such as spinach.
3. You can substitute the chickpeas or beans with meat or seafood for a non-vegan version.
4. I serve it cold the following day on a bed of rocket with the same toppings though I’ll often add pomegranate seeds, rather than lemon, and a touch of chopped mint with the parsley.