Thursday, August 9, 2012

Orzo with Wilted Spinach

I love orzo. It cooks quickly, is versatile, and has such a cute little shape! One of my first experiences with orzo pasta was with my (then) fiancĂ© on Valentines Day 2004. He took me to J. Alexanders, a fantastic restaurant in Denver. A steak house, there was not much on the menu to suit our vegetarian dietary preferences, but they did offer a delectable variety of vegetarian side dishes such as a mountain of smashed red potatoes, haricot vert with almonds, steamed broccoli, braised red cabbage, heirloom carrots, and this amazing orzo salad. It was a mouthwatering blend of dried fruit, pasta, wild rice, sweet peppers, etc...You'd really have to try it to believe me. ;0) We finished off our meal with a gigantic piece of warm carrot cake too big for the two of us to finish. I've attempted to replicate that salad many times, but just can't seem to get it right. That's ok. I'll save the experience for the next time I visit J. Alexanders. 

This recipe is a respectable nod to orzo as a side dish. I made this dish this afternoon for dinner with a vegetarian chicken cacciatore and toasted whole grain baguette. It's lemony fragrance really enhanced the cacciatore. 

Olive oil
1 cup orzo pasta, dry
15 oz. vegetarian chicken broth (I used 1 Tb. chicken seasoning to 15 ozs. water)
1/2 medium onion, roughly diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups fresh spinach, washed and cut into strips
2 tsp. fresh basil, julienned
1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
Juice of half a lemon
Pepper (opt)


Drizzle about 2 tsps. olive oil in bottom of medium saucepan. Add dry orzo. Warm over medium high heat until orzo begins slightly brown. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Allow to cook until tender, approximately 18 minutes. 

Meanwhile, start your spinach. Saute onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil until fragrant and beginning to clarify. Add spinach and basil. Cook and stir until spinach is wilted. Add lemon zest and juice and season well with salt and pepper, if using. Cook a moment longer to allow the flavors to combine. Remove from heat and seat aside. 

When orzo is tender, add spinach mixture, stir and fluff combination. Check for seasoning and add salt if needed. Serve warm.

Serves 4.

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