Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Orzo with Basil, Roasted Peppers, Eggplant, Cherry Tomatoes, and Feta in Lemon Vinaigrette

Summer is on the horizon, so visions of bell peppers, eggplants, tomatoes and basil are dancing in my foodie head. I came across this recipe incorporating most of the above by Ina Garten (aka, the barefoot contessa) with orzo (the pasta that looks like rice) along with feta cheese and a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette. I modified the recipe by adding roasted cherry tomatoes, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and adjusting the quantities of some of the other ingredients. Very tasty (totally redolent of the summer veggie garden), easy to make, and can be served either warm or at room temperature as a side dish or light main course.

1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2" dice
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1" dice
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1" dice
1 small red onion, cut into 1/2" dice
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 pint (about 10 oz.) red cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper


1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

1 lb. orzo pasta

1/4 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced (chiffonade)

3-4 scallions, sliced
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 oz. feta cheese, cut into small dice (do not use crumbled feta)

1. Preheat oven to 425F.

2. Line 2 baking sheets with foil. 

3. To the first baking sheet, add the chopped eggplant, bells peppers, onion, and garlic cloves (try to keep the veggies separate from each other on the pan). Drizzle with 1/4 to 1/3 cup of olive oil, sprinkle with 1 tsp. kosher salt and 1/2 tsp. black pepper. Toss to coat.

4. To the second baking sheet, add the halved cherry tomatoes, drizzle with 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, and 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper. Toss to coat.

5. Place baking sheets in the oven (if you have double ovens, even better - preheat both to 425F and place one baking sheet in each - racks should be midway up the ovens). Roast veggies about 40 minutes, turning them over once about halfway through cooking.

6. Make the vinaigrette by combining the olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl or measuring cup. Mix together with a fork or whisk until well combined. Set aside.

7. Toast the pine nuts in a dry (no oil added) non-stick skillet over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until fragrant & just barely starting to brown. Remove from heat immediately so they don't burn and set aside.

8. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil about 10 minutes before the veggies are done. Add 1-2 tsp. of salt to the water. Add the dried orzo to the boiling water and cook about 9 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is just done (al dente, or still a bit "toothy" to the bite). Drain in a colander, and pour the orzo back into the pot. 

9. Remove the baking sheets from the oven. Remove the roasted garlic to a chopping board and roughly chop.

10. And add the roasted onion, garlic, eggplant, peppers, cherry tomatoes and any accumulated juices to the drained orzo. Mix gently with a wooden spoon to combine. 

11. Stir in the vinaigrette, chiffonaded basil, chopped scallion, red pepper flakes, diced feta, and toasted pine nuts. Taste and re-season as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 Red bell pepper, eggplant, yellow bell pepper, cherry/grape tomatoes, red onion.

 Halve the tomatoes and place in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Toss with olive oil,
salt and pepper.

Tomatoes after roasting for about 40 minutes at 425F.

 This is the tray of diced bell peppers, onion, eggplant, and garlic tossed in olive oil, salt & pepper.

 Roasted veggies.

Remove the roasted garlic to a chopping board and roughly chop.

 Cook the orzo, drain and return back to the pot.

 Cut the feta cheese into small dice.

 Make the vinaigrette.

Toss the roasted veggies with the orzo. Gently stir in the scallions, julienned basil, toasted pine nuts, diced feta, red pepper flakes and vinaigrette.


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