Because I said orzo……

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Mediterranean Orzo Salad

It’s cookout time, which means the endless search for sides has begun. I love my mayo, but sometimes you want something different. I searched the internet for an orzo salad similar to one at a local grocery store. I don’t go there often since they moved things around, including staff. It’s not like home any more. My photo is a little fuzzy because I was dizzy at the thought of sampling….a little more. For any orzo salad, it’s about colors and flavors. The dressing for this recipe makes it special. With the saltiness of the feta and the Kalamata olives, you need some balance, some sweetness. The lemon juice and honey are the perfect harmony of sweet and salty. I used it on a regular green salad the next day. It’s different. It’s fresh tasting. It’s new and improved……it’s got lemon!!! (old marketing major joke…..add lemon for more shelf space).

Enough yapping, let’s make some orzo salad!

12 ounces orzo pasta, cooked, drained and cooled

1 cup red grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup yellow grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup Kalamata olives, halved

1 7-ounce package Feta cheese, crumbled

1 cup chopped green onions

1 cup chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 whole red onion, diced-or as much or as little as  you want!

3 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced

1 cucumber peeled and diced

Dressing/vinaigrette

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. honey

1/2 cup olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Let me just warn you. A whole box of orzo, is A LOT OF ORZO. You may want to reduce it to half of a box, for your first go around. It’s more than plenty, as a side, for 4 or 5 people. You may have noticed there is a lot of mincing and chopping. Get some cereal bowls for the veggies, and get busy. Turn on some tunes to make it less tedious. It’s worth the work. You will admire all the bright colors that will become a delicious salad. If you don’t like some of the ingredients, exclude them, change them, do what you’d like. It’s your salad. Pro tip for the cucumber. After you peel it, slice the cuke lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scrape out the seeds, and toss them. Then you chop the cucumber. This prevents your salad from getting watery. Place the orzo and other ingredients in a big bowl. Give them a stir.                                                                                                                                         Whatever you do, do not omit the dressing. Whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, and honey in a small bowl. Whisk the olive oil in gradually. You can also put it in a glass canning jar and shake…or stir. Season with salt and pepper. Honestly, the only thing I measured was the red wine vinegar. I guesstimated the lemon juice and honey. Get a spoon and taste. Isn’t it great? Lemon and honey! This can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill if making ahead. Drizzle the dressing over the exquisitely minced veggies and feta. Feta is bettah! (I’ve been waiting for 500 or so words to say that!) Mix it together. Stand back and admire your work. If you are reducing the salad by half, reduce the dressing too. If you have any left over, try it on a regular green salad, to fancy it up.

Enjoy!

Creamy Orzo with Pancetta

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I buried this fantastic recipe along with another fantastic recipe (Gobble Gobble Turkey Meatballs) some time ago.  Creamy Orzo with Pancetta should stand alone as a recipe. I made this last night with breaded chicken tenders and fell in love again. As usual, when I find a new recipe, I make it a lot, and then not at all.  It’s been a while but I think it will make the rounds again. My son is excited to have those leftovers tonight. It’s a simple recipe that you can play with. If you love pancetta, add more. If you love onions, use two! It also doubles really well. To give the orzo some color and a toasty flavor, you brown the uncooked orzo. I had never done this before and it is a game changer. The pancetta is sold already diced. It’s usually near the deli counter.

¼ cup (or so) diced pancetta

2 tbsp. butter or olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 ½ cups of orzo (uncooked)

2 ½ cups chicken broth

½ frozen  petite peas

½ grated Parmesan cheese

salt and pepper to taste

In a braiser or a shallow pot, melt the butter or heat the olive oil, under a medium heat.  Add your onion and sprinkle it with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Sauté the onions until they soften. Add the pancetta and stir. I like to cook the onions and pancetta for about 5 minutes. It may take longer. You want everything to soften.

Add uncooked orzo to pan with onions and pancetta. Stir the mixture. The orzo will “toast”. Keep stirring. It will only take about a minute for the orzo to get some color. If it starts to stick, add a little more olive oil.

Add the garlic. Stir and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock. Stir to combine. Let it come to a boil. Put the lid on and lower the heat. Stir occasionally. You want it to simmer for 20 minutes. The orzo will absorb most of the liquid and fluff up.

Take pan off  the heat and add the parmesan. Stir. The dish gets creamy with the parmesan. The orzo may stick to the pan, but don’t worry. Add the frozen peas, and put the lid back on. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.

Take the lid off and stir. The orzo should not be sticking to the pan. Season to taste. Stir and serve! I like to serve this with a variety of chicken dishes. It makes a great lunch with some chopped cooked chicken. It heats up in the microwave like a champ!

This is simple, delicious and just a tad different from anything you’ve probably ever made. Try it. You’ll like it! Serves 4 (maybe!!)

Gobble Gobble Turkey Balls

I found this recipe on Saveur.com’s website a couple of years ago. I wanted to try to make a few new things that were low-fat. This recipe uses ground turkey and is moist and delicious. I use the Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned stuffing bread cubes are that in a bag (not the boxed stuffing mix). These meatballs taste like Thanksgiving dinner in each bite.

Gobble Gobble Turkey Balls

Makes about 2 dozen 1.5 inch meatballs

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 lbs. ground turkey

2 cups garlic croutons or stuffing cubes

1 cup dried cranberries (rough chopped)

2 large eggs

¼ cup breadcrumbs

2 tbsp. chopped fresh sage

2 tsp. salt

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Coat a 9 x 13 pan with olive oil, sides included.

In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, croutons, cranberries, eggs, bread crumbs, sage, salt and cinnamon. Mix by hand until it’s thoroughly incorporated.

Roll this sticky mixture into round, golf-ball sized meatballs. Pack them together firmly. Place the meatballs in the pan so that they are touching.

Bake the meatballs for 20 minutes or until they are firm. If you are using a meat thermometer it should read 165 degrees F.

Cool the meatballs for 5 minutes before serving.

I also like to serve these meatballs with a delicious creamy orzo dish I make and a salad. These meatballs freeze really well.

Here’s the orzo recipe:

Creamy Orzo with Pancetta 

¼ cup of diced pancetta

2 tbsp. of butter or olive oil

1 small onion finely chopped

1 clove garlic finely chopped

1½ cups of Orzo (uncooked)

2 ½ cups chicken broth

½ cup frozen petite peas

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven or a deep pot melt the butter or heat the olive oil. Add your onion and sprinkle with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Sauté the onions so they start to soften. Add the pancetta and stir. I like to cook the onions and pancetta for about 5 minutes. This gives the pancetta time to soften and let the pepper and salt help the onions to cook. Add the uncooked orzo to the pan with the onion and pancetta. You are going to let the orzo brown just a little or “toast”. Keep stirring to avoid anything from burning. This brings a wonderful flavor to the finished product. If the orzo sticks to the pan, add a little more olive oil and stir. Once there is some color to the orzo, add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds. You don’t want it to burn as them the taste is bitter.  Add the chicken broth to this mixture.  If you have homemade stock that will add wonderful flavor, but I often use store bought chicken broth. It is still wonderful. Try to use low sodium chicken broth, as the Parmesan is salty.  Stir to combine all ingredients. Put the lid on and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. The orzo will fluff up and the chicken broth will be absorbed. Take the pan off the heat. Add the Parmesan and stir. Once the Parmesan has melted, stir in the frozen petite peas. I add a handful or more.  Cover the pan and let the peas cook. After about 5 minutes, take off the lid and stir. I must tell you that I always double this recipe. My family loves this. It is great reheated in the microwave. I often serve this with a roast chicken and a tossed salad. Simple and delicious!

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