Baked Orzo with Vegetables

Ready to serve

So you move to a new place (or are in the process of moving) and you know one person. Granted it’s a person you’ve known since you were 10 or 11, and the sole reason for moving to this far, far away, freezing cold land. And he knows plenty of people – though you wouldn’t necessarily think so listening to him at times!

Now, I am by nature, basically, a very shy person (Now, stop laughing. I can hear you from here), and don’t make friends easily (No, really, stop laughing!) Always afraid I won’t fit in or that people won’t like me. That shyness can at times be perceived as snobbiness, but really it isn’t.

So, how to make a good impression?

Well, when you’re a foodie, it’s simple, FEED THEM! But what? When you have big eaters and small eaters and flesh eaters and non-flesh eaters and who doesn’t like this, that or the other thing, it ain’t easy!

This particular night I decided I wanted to try not ONE, not TWO, but THREE new recipes. I should have had my head examined. Not that anything was particularly difficult, but it was the first time out of the gate with these so there was an unknown factor. There was lots of chopping and grating and mincing and almost every bowl and utensil in the kitchen was in the sink by the time things started to cook, and I couldn’t have done any of this without my favorite kitchen sidekick. Thank you, dear man.

But, truly, there is something to be said for a partner who will roll up his sleeves, pick up a knife and do any task barked asked of him, and then wash all the dishes!

So, this recipe for my dear, new friend, Lisa, the vegetarian, was adapted from both Yotam Ottolenghi and the Smitten Kitchen. I came across this recipe a couple of months ago and knew I had to make this for her! It was fabulous!

Serves 6

  • 2 large eggplant, (about 2 pounds) cut into 3/4-inch dice
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 1/2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 celery stalks, in a 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 1/2 medium onion, finely diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 12 ozs orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, rinsed
  • 1 1/2 t tomato paste
  • 2 1/4 C vegetable stock
  • 1 to 3 T fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 t grated lemon zest or more to taste, up to the zest of a whole lemon
  • 6 ozs mozzarella, firmer is better here, cut into 1/3-inch dice
  • 3/4 C parmesan, grated
  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced

NOTE: The original recipe was for 4. We were going to be 6, so I made a 1 1/2 times recipe which reflects in the measurements above.  Also, I lessened the number of carrots and amount of celery

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Eggplant

Sprinkle your eggplant generously with salt and let it drain in a colander for 30 minutes. I used this time to get the rest of my ingredients ready. After 30 minutes, rinse it well and pat it dry on towels.

Place eggplant cubes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper, and a splash of olive oil. Roast until golden brown at the edges, about 20, 25 minutes.

NOTE: The original recipe calls for frying the eggplant. I really couldn’t deal with frying the eggplant, so I put the cubes on a cookie sheet, salt and peppered them, a splosh of olive oil and let them roast until golden brown at the edges. About 20 minutes.

Carrots and celery

While the eggplant is roasting, heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the celery and carrots and cook for 3 minutes before adding onion and garlic. Cook together for 5 more minutes on medium heat.

Toasting orzo

Stir in the orzo and tomato paste and cook for two minutes more. Off the heat, add the oregano, mozzarella, parmesan, tomatoes, eggplant, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon table salt, many grinds of black pepper and the stock and mix well.

NOTE: The original recipe called for putting the tomatoes in thin slices over the top before baking. I chopped them up and mixed them in.  Instead of mixing everything in the pan I put everything in a large bowl to mix. By this time, I had used EVERY pot, pan, mixing bowl and counter space in our kitchen, so what was one more! (Oh, my dear dish washer, you are so appreciated for putting up with a Tasmanian Devil in the kitchen!)

Ready to bake

Transfer mixture to an 8×11-inch (about 2 quarts) ovenproof baking dish (I used a 3 quart dish here).

Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes, then bake 20 minutes without the foil. (You can increase the ration of foil-on to foil-off time if you don’t like a crunchy pasta lid.) Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

NOTE: We had more folks over the next night and there was enough left over to serve the same meal again! I just stirred in a little more mozzarella and poured in a little vegetable stock to make sure it didn’t dry out too much in the oven.

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9 Responses

  1. So you not only made THREE new recipes – you used orzo in one of them? I need to stop for a second and let that sink in. Twelve (12) oz? How many boxes is that!!?? Sorry I couldn’t resist.

    I’m beyond happy for you but I also want to warn you I mean welcome you to what what will be real winters.

    And at the risk of offending any Cardinals (or Yankees) fans reading this blog – GO REDSOX GO.

  2. Yum! I love dishes like these that are healthy and filling–no guilt going back for seconds (or thirds)!

  3. […] on trifecta nite, this made perfect sense – there was also Basque Chicken and Baked Orzo. I think the problem with this trio was […]

  4. […] from Relish Magazine more and more all the time. I wanted something to use as a main dish with the Baked Orzo with Vegetables. You know, something with similar ingredients and flavors so the meal sort of melded, but also so […]

  5. Oh wow…I need to try this! =D

  6. This was sooooo very good! I’ve made it twice already! I just published my blog post today and linked it back here! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I’ll be making often from now on! http://myrecipejourney-lillian.blogspot.com/2014/02/orzo-veggie-bake.html

    • Lillian, I am SO glad you liked it! It’s become a staple in our house with our vegetarian friends. Last time just before baking I split it into 2 baking dishes and added poached chicken to one! Thanks for stopping in to let me know how you liked it!

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