Root Source Challenge. . .ORZO

I worked on 2 recipes for orzo, trying to figure out what I wanted to submit for this fantastic challenge! I just discovered root source and I am totally impressed with how well they cover a food topic, right down to a weekly email that lists recipes to the food that they are covering for that week. WoW! That is just a little bit of work. . .YES? AND there is a cookbook for a prize! This month, the cookbook is a copy of Dinner for Eight. I am joining in, prize or no prize, because I love the idea behind this challenge and all the previous challenges that have been listed. I looked. . .there are a LOT of them and they all have wonderful recipes.

I have not made very many orzo recipes in the past but since I have been having a Feta cheese fling for the last month, I thought what a great combo starter! So, this is what I have come up with:

Recipe #1 (drum roll) Greek Orzo Salad
Recipe #2 (whole band roll) Baked Orzo with Cod and Feta
I think that I like the Greek Orzo Salad Better. In fact, I like it so well that I have decided to make it for St. Patrick's Day Dinner that I am doing. This will make an awesome side salad with the green in the cucumbers and also the green in the dill. I love the creamy texture that goes with the crunch in the green onions (green too!) and the cucumbers along with the medium sized shrimp. The Feta cheese is not over powering, which I was worried about since shrimp and orzo are both mild flavors. I think the Feta Cheese actually pulls the whole salad together and is a great compliment in flavors! No, that is not my Feta fling talking! I also think that I have really overlooked this versatile pasta. The orzo challenge has helped in getting me to rectify this. I started talking about it at work, since I am an electrician, all the guys are looking at me like what?! and I just tell them to tell their wives and they'll understand. Nothing like a vague glassy eyed look to know everyone is enthused. . .hhhmmm. I think I'll just go and call Mom. She will be excited with me!
The Baked Orzo with Cod and Feta is awesome for flavor but I have a ton more orzo in the salad then I do in the baked orzo. I used Italian stewed tomatoes that I canned last summer, you can also buy Italian tomatoes for this dish, and of course, Feta cheese on top. The Cod was soooo good but I think that Halibut and Swordfish would also be perfect substitutes in the baked orzo. The orzo bake was fun to put together but using Cod had its drawbacks because I had to debone the fish first. Those bones are like little razor teeth. Only needle-nose pliers would do for pulling those little suckers out! Good thing there were only a couple or I would have contemplated bagging the whole experiment. Needless to say, I am really glad I trudged forward because the dish ended up being pretty quick and full of flavor at the end. I am leaving out the baby shrimp in the recipe that I will post below because all the flavors drown out the baby shrimp and you don't even know they are there except for the visual. Overkill. Simple as that.
Greek Orzo Salad
I think this would serve 8 to 10
3/4 of a 1-pound package of orzo pasta
4 green onions, chopped up
1 1/2 c. Feta Cheese
1/3 c. fresh dill. . .fresh is sooo much better in flavor then dried
4 T. fresh lemon juice
3 T. Olive Oil (I use extra-virgin)
2 pounds of medium shrimp, cooked, peeled and deveined (I cooked mine simply in salted water)
1 Cucumber (My cucumber was about 1 foot long and not overly fat.) Quarter the cucumber lengthwise so that you have 4 long strips and then cut into 1/4-inch thick pieces
1/2 cucumber (Used for full, thin slices on top of salad)
1 (12-ounce) basket cherry tomatoes, cut in half and divided
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Fresh Dill Sprigs for Decorating the top of the salad

Cook orzo in a large pot of water. Bring salted water to boiling and cook until tender, about 9 minutes. Stir orzo occasionally. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well. . .this is important for later.

Transfer to a large bowl and add green onions, feta cheese, chopped dill, lemon juice, and olive oil. Mix well.

Make sure there is no excess water on the cooked medium sized shrimp. Add to salad and mix well. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. '

Mix in cucumber pieces, 3/4 of the cherry tomatoes that have been cut in halves. Arrange whole cucumber rounds and cherry tomato halves around edge of bowl and garnish with the pretty little dill sprigs.

Chill salad until ready to serve. This makes a big bowl of salad but mine only made it 2 days.

Baked Orzo with Cod and Feta
This serves about 6 people
1 1/2 c. uncooked Orzo Pasta. . .Challenge Ingredient =D
1 pound Cod, deboned if there is any and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 T. olive oil
1 c. finely chopped sweet onion. . .any kind of onion will do(It's a taste thing, I'm not an onion lover)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce) can of Italian chopped tomatoes
1 c. chicken broth
1 t. sugar. . .cuts down the acidity of the tomatoes
3/4 t. dried Italian herbs (I should have called this Italian Baked Orzo. . .Hhhmmm)
Salt to taste (I used 1/2 t.)
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
2 T. parsley, chopped fine
4 ounces of feta cheese (Next time I am going to use the Feta Cheese mixed with basil and dried tomatoes)
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add orzo and cook till tender, about 9 minutes. Stir occasionally. Drain and set to the side. Remove any bones from the Cod fillet or fillets; cut into 1-inch pieces and set to the side.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. About 10 or 12-inch skillet will be perfect. Put the onion into the pan and saute for about 5 minutes or until tender and lightly brown. Add the minced garlic and saute for another 2 minutes. Pour the tomatoes and broth into the pan and stir in the sugar, Italian herbs, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Keep uncovered and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir often.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the Cod and cooked orzo.

Cover and bake for 8 minutes. Take out of oven and stir in parsley and sprinkle Feta Cheese over the top. Continue baking, uncovered, 10 minutes, or until the sauce is all bubbly and the Cod is cooked through. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.


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