By Cheryl Radkiewicz
Why not make some new side dishes the “crowning glories” of your upcoming summer parties? Your guests will welcome a new refreshing change from coleslaw, pasta salad, broccoli salad and copper penny salad.
One of my favorite items to work with is orzo. Yes, it’s a pasta, however, it’s smaller, more delicate, and I’ve found it easier to eat for young children and older adults. Not fitting into the latter category just yet, I love the way orzo picks up the flavor of the other ingredients. It’s shaped like a longer grain of rice and has become an option for cooks. It’s very versatile to use in salads, soups, main dishes, casseroles, and also may be used as a substitute for pasta or rice.
So here are some recipes I have used time and again from the Annunciation Greek Church in Scranton, which, by the way, is holding its annual Food Festival this month — a “don’t miss” event.
3 cups water or chicken broth (I use canned broth)
1/2 stick butter or margarine (I use butter)
1 clove garlic, crushed (Sometimes I use 2-3)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1-6 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup orzo
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil water or broth and add tomato sauce and butter. Add the orzo, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Boil slowly about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat. Some of the liquid will remain. Let stand for 1 hour until the liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally. May be topped with grated Parmesan cheese.
Orzo Casserole with Vegetables:
2 large red onions, coarsely chopped
4 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 cups peeled, seeded and chopped plum tomatoes
1 1/2 lbs. zucchini, cut into 1″ cubes
2 cloves garlic
2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. oil
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp. oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 lb. orzo
5 cups water
Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in large skillet. Add onions and cook over low heat for approximately 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cinnamon and continue to cook for another 5 minutes. The onions should be translucent and slightly caramelized. Remove onions from the skillet. In skillet, heat 2 more tablespoons oil and cook carrots over low heat for 15 minutes or until carrots are tender, not soft. Stir occasionally.
Preheat oven to 375. In large pot, bring 5 cups salted water to boil and add orzo. As soon as water begins to boil again, remove pot from heat and pour contents into a large ovenproof casserole dish. Add onions, carrots, tomatoes, 2 Tbsp. oil, bay leaves, oregano, salt and pepper and mix together. Cover and bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring mixture very well from bottom of the dish every so often to keep orzo from sticking.
While vegetable mixture is cooking, heat 2 more Tbsp. oil in the skillet and cook zucchini until tender, but firm, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute. Toss zucchini and garlic in with the orzo, combining zucchini and garlic with orzo. Bake, uncovered, for another hour, or until orzo is tender.
Check orzo and stir during baking to prevent sticking. Add water if necessary. Remove bay leaves and mix in remaining oil and vinegar. Serve immediately.
Lemon Shrimp and Orzo:
1 lb. medium shrimp
1 pint cherry tomatoes
3 medium celery stalks
1-9 oz. pkg. frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/4 cup oil
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 lb. or 8 oz. orzo
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. oregano
1 tsp. salt
Shell and de-vein shrimp. Thinly slice celery. Slice each cherry tomato in half. Prepare orzo as label directs, but omit salt; drain. Meanwhile, in 12″ skillet over medium-high heat, in hot oil, cook artichoke hearts, garlic and celery for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add shrimp and cook 5 minutes or until shrimp and vegetables are tender, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium. Stir orzo, cherry tomatoes, lemon juice, minced oregano and salt into shrimp mixture; heat through. If not serving right away, cover and refrigerate to serve chilled later.
Now, this recipe isn’t from the church, however, I found it many years ago and I love serving it especially on hot summer days:
Artichoke and Olive Orzo Salad:
1 lb. orzo, cooked, al dente
1 jar artichoke hearts, chopped, reserving marinade
1 can black olives, sliced or halved
1 red onion, diced finely
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine cooked and drained orzo, chopped artichoke hearts, olives, and onion. Add mayonnaise to your taste. Drizzle in a little marinade from the artichoke hearts. Season with salt and pepper. Serve chilled.
Refreshing and easy…make it a day ahead:
Rosa Marina Fruit Salad:
1 lb. orzo pasta, cooked al dente
2 -15 oz. cans mandarin oranges, drained and juice reserved
1-16 oz. can pineapple chunks, drained with juice reserved
1-4 oz. jar maraschino cherries, drained and halved
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
3 Tbsp. flour
1-16 oz. container Cool Whip
Add cooked and drained orzo to large bowl. Add oranges, pineapple chunks and cherries. Stir well. Combine juices from oranges and pineapple chunks, sugar, eggs and flour in a saucepan over low heat; cook, stirring often until sauce is thickened (about 5-7 minutes).
Remove from heat and cool, at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. Pour cooled sauce over orzo mixture and toss to coat. Refrigerate until flavors blend, 8 hours to overnight. Fold Cool Whip into orzo mixture before serving.