Vegetarian Pasta: Gene's Orzo Recipe
What is Orzo? It is a small pasta shaped like a piece of rice. The Italian name Orzo actually means
barley." Italians also call it "risoni" which means big rice. Whatever it is called, it is pasta just like linguine only short cut and shaped like a large grain of rice. Orzo pasta can be used in soup instead of rice, or as a side dish with a little sauce or with olive oil as a little side dish. This orzo recipe for a cold vegetarian salad can be served alone or as a main dish.
- 1/4 Cup olive oil, high quality extra virgin
- 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice, Fresh
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic, we omit this option
- 1/2 teaspoon Oregano, Dried
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt, Kosher
- 1/8 teaspoon Pepper, Fresh ground
- 1/2 teaspoon Sugar, White granulated
- 1 Cup Orzo, Rice-shaped pasta
- 1/4 Cup Pine nuts, Toasted
- 1/4 Cup Rasins, Golden seedless
- 3 Tablespoons Olives, Black
- 3 Tablespoons Red Onion, We omit this option
- 1/4 Cup Basil, Thin sliced
- 2 Ounces Feta Cheese, Crumbled
- Mix together the first seven ingredients in a small bowl then set aside. Be sure to mix well: the 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, the 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice from freshly squeezed lemon or bottled juice, the 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic. the 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, the 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, the 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper and finally the 1/2 teaspoon white granulated sugar.
Fill a large pot with water to cook the pasta. Put it on the stove with the burner on high to bring the water to a boil.
Add Kosher salt to the water on the stove before or after it comes to a full boil. This will keep the orzo pieces from sticking to each other or the pot. If you are avoiding salt in your diet, then use a little canola oil. Then add the Orzo and cook (stirring occasionaly) until the orzo is just tender, but a little firm to the bite (al dente). This takes approximately 8 - 10 minutes. If you overcook the orzo, you will end up with a paste instead of a pasta salad.
Now you are going to brown the pine nuts which draws out their flavor and makes them more colorful in the end dish. Put a dab of butter in your fry pan. It adds flavor and keeps the pine nuts from sticking. If you have a small non-stick fry pan that would work well also . I use a small well-loved and well-seasoned cast iron skillet. You want to brown the pine nuts on both sides. Stir and turn often. I have found that pine nuts burn very fast so keep a close eye on them and don't have the heat too high.
About Pine Nuts
Pine nuts are one of the healthiest nuts you can eat. It is loaded with minerals. It is fairly high calorie but the fat in them is the good kind for your heat. They are also full of vitamins and anti-oxidants.
That's a penny in the pan to give everyone an idea how small my pan is, and to illustrate the size needed, but larger works too if you don't have a smaller pan. All that is important is getting the pine nuts browned. Once they are browned remove them from the fry pan and allow them to cool.
Now drain the al dente orzo in a colander and then transfer it to a medium sized bowl. Add the dressing/mixture of the first seven ingredients to the hot pasta. Now toss and stir it in order to coat the orzo/pasta. Allow this mixture of ingredients to cool to room temperature. Then add the correct amount of golden raisins. We actually like this orzo salad cold so we refrigerate it a couple hours before we eat it.
This salad keeps well several days in the refrigerator and makes for a nice lunch or good side dish for supper.
Raisins are naturally sweet and have no added sugar in the box. They contain a significant amount of Potassium and fiber. Golden raisins are made from white grapes. Among the varieties of seedless grapes used to make golden raisins are Thompson Seedless, Fiesta, Selma Pete, and DOVine.
After the pasta has cooled, you now add the remaining ingredients: Golden rasins, Black olives Red onion (we omit this), Basil, Feta cheese. We serve it cold.
Hydroxytyrosol is found in olives. It is an olive phytonutrient that has long been linked to cancer prevention, is now regarded as having the potential to help us prevent bone loss as well. There is a low incidence of osteoporosis in people who eat a Mediterranean diet.
Gene's Version of Orzo Pasta Recipe
About Feta Cheese
While it does contain monosaturated fat, there is not enough feta in this recipe to add lots of calories. What feta cheese does offer you of course is protein and calcium.