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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Baked Mediterranean Orzo

This has to be one of the worst written recipes I've ever made.

I'm not sure where the recipe originally comes from as I tore it out of somewhere. The directions were weird and the ingredient list and cooking instructions felt like they'd been translated from about four languages before finally making it into English. Not surprisingly, I changed quite a few things around and came up with this.

Baked Mediterranean Orzo

1 can (28-oz) whole tomatoes
2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, cut into very thin slivers
1 can (15-oz) each black beans and cannellini
beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15-oz) artichoke hearts, drained
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut into halves
1/2 cup raisins
1 tbsp capers, drained
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1 1/2 cups orzo
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Break up tomatoes with a spoon and drain liquid into another container. Add enough of the tomato liquid into the 2 cups of the vegetable stock to make 3 cups of liquid; set aside.

2. In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add slivered onions and cook until golden. Add to the bottom of a 13"x9" casserole dish. Stir in tomatoes, broth mixture, black beans, cannellini beans, artichokes, apricots, raisins, capers, basil and fennel seeds. Put into the oven for approximately 20 minutes and bake until mixture comes to a rolling boil.

3. Carefully remove casserole from the oven and add orzo, scraping the bottom of the dish to loosen any brown bits. Cover tightly with tin foil, return to oven, and bake for 20 minutes more, or until pasta is tender and almost all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cheese, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

The Verdict: The apricots and raisins are the hands-down star of this dish.

This was my choice for meatless Monday and it was a great choice: both the orzo and beans made the recipe very filling. But like I just said, the apricots and raisins really make this dish pop with the sporadic sweet bites. It reminds me of a good salad, the way that each ingredient is separate but works together to create melodies of flavor.

Amir wasn't nuts about this dish, which really surprised me. He gobbled down handfuls of the dried fruit before dinner (but not too much to spoil his appetite), so I thought that would be a draw. And where he so likes rice, I figured he'd love the orzo. But no and no.

Yes votes from the parents, a thumb's down from the toddler.

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