Sunday, June 28, 2009

Basil & Sun-Dried Tomato Orzo

It seemed impossible. But it has happened. I cooked something.

Yes, this phenomenon has occurred many times before, but I have never blogged about it. I'm not just a baker, you know. I'm multi-faceted. So here we go...

Last week, I got the urge to make some sort of food dish that would be tasty, quick, and easy to freeze. I happen to live in a hotel during the week, so if I make a large dish, I usually need to establish freezing capabilities.

Approximately one year ago, I stumbled across Adventures In Shaw's Fast Food blog post for Basil & Sun-Dried Tomato Orzo. The recipe has been sitting in the Bookmarks section of my Internet browser until I re-discovered it about 3 weeks ago. There were several reasons I chose to make this dish:

1. I love the combination of basil and tomato, so why not?
2. I have never cooked orzo before, so I decided to live on the wild side.
3. Adventures in Shaw promised that this would be a "fast food". Since I'm always pressed for time, I couldn't resist.

I wasn't too sure what to expect from this dish. I knew that orzo is a type of pasta, but that was pretty much the extent of it. One of the things I really like about this recipe is the ability to modify the ingredients and proportions at any stage. One of my "dislikes" about baking is that I have to stick to certain guidelines regarding what I can and cannot add to the recipe. Don't ask me about these guidelines. I'm still figuring them out, one cupcake at a time. But in the meantime, I cook.

Basil & Sun-Dried Tomato Orzo
(slightly adapted from Adventures In Shaw)
  • 2 cups basil leaves
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 container sun-dried tomatoes, packed in herbed olive oil
  • Parmesan cheese, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups cooked orzo
1) Cook the orzo according to the package, drain and set aside.

2) Chop the onion, basil and sun dried tomatoes, reserving some of the olive oil for the pan. (Note: Because I was lazy, I threw the sun-dried tomatoes in the food processor for chopping.)

3) Place the pan on the stove at medium heat, pour in the reserved olive oil. I used several teaspoons of the olive oil. Add the onion first.

4) Saute for a minute or two (until the onions start to go soft) and then toss in the tomatoes.

5) Continue to saute for another minute, adding the basil before tossing in the cooked orzo.

6) Reduce the heat to low and continue tossing the ingredients together until everything is evenly coated.

7) Stir in most of the Parmesan cheese.

8) Top orzo with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

The tomatoes turned the orzo a very faint, but pretty, orange color. The orzo itself tasted just like pasta! (I know that orzo is pasta, but since it looks like rice, I keep forgetting that fact. I'm a visual eater.) The basil/tomato/Parmesan combination was quite savory. Each time I took a bite, I smelled the basil, felt a little tang from the sun-dried tomato, and then experienced the creaminess of the melted Parmesan.

Overall, I love the recipe, but my original proportions would have been more accurate if I was cooking 1 cup of orzo. Since I actually made 2 cups of orzo, I would have adjusted the key ingredients. Still, the final recipe was great. It also freezes and thaws really well. You may need to add a teaspoon or two of olive oil when reheating the orzo, as it may be a bit dry.

A few detailed observations:
  • I typically don't like chunks of of sun-dried tomatoes, which was why I resorted to food processor power. Next time, though, I'll plan on using the entire container. Although I could still taste the sun-dried tomatoes, I could have used more.
  • The smell of fresh basil has to be one of the greatest pleasures on Earth. (Kimmy and I just purchased a potted basil plant today. His name is Frankie. He's Italian.) If I added more tomatoes, I would also suggest adding another cup or so of chopped basil, so that the scent/taste is still present. I julienned my basil, which means that I cut the leaves into long strips. However, I would suggest actually chopping them, as it will help the basil to spread more evenly throughout the dish.
  • The final step calls for shredded Parmesan cheese. Of course, I would have also added more cheese to the dish. I love cheese and can't ever have enough of it. Especially when it's melted.
If you are a remotely busy person, you should try this recipe. It lived up to it's promise to be quick and easy. It would probably be even faster for someone more adept at knife skills than myself. So here's my invisible toast to many more cooking blog posts in the future. You may have to wait a bit though. My next adventure is going to be cupcake-related again! Stay tuned...

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