Thursday, December 2, 2010

Zesty Tomato Orzo

This dish has an identity crisis. It can't decide whether it is a pasta dish, soup, or a stew. I came home from work today, craving soup, now that the weather is getting cold. I originally planned on making a chicken and orzo soup, to use up the carton of chicken broth and aromatics I had left over from Thanksgiving. But then a recipe for "Roasted Tomato-Garlic Soup" on the back of the box of orzo caught my eye. It seemed simple enough, combine tomato sauce, chicken broth and fresh herbs in a pot, bring to a boil, and 1/2 cup of orzo, and cook until the orzo is tender. It also provided a simple recipe for homemade pesto sauce, to garnish at the end.

But of course, I am not one to follow directions.

To start, I wanted to use the celery, onion, and carrot that were taking up space in my vegetable crisper. So I chopped them up and sauteed the vegetables and two minced cloves of garlic in olive oil. I had infused the olive oil with some red pepper flakes to give the soup some spiciness. This is a method that I use for making almost all my soups. I then added two cups of tomato sauce, and about two cups of chicken broth and brought the mixture to a boil. So far so good. I haven't diverged from the recipe too far yet.

Then it came time to add the orzo. I first stirred 1/2 cup of orzo as the recipe called for. But then that didn't seem like enough pasta, so I added another half cup. Then I didn't stir the bottom of the pot very well while the orzo was cooking, so much of it stuck to the bottom and burned. About seven minutes later, I stirred in chopped fresh thyme, oregano, and sage. I ended up with the thick, not very soupy mixture, very much like you see above. I spooned some into a bowl, and added a dollop of pesto that I already made weeks ago, and kept frozen in the freezer. That's what that greenish blob is on top.

All things considered, it didn't come out bad, in fact it was suprisingly tasty. But it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. The next time I attempt this, I will stick to the 1/2 cup of orzo, which seems to be my downfall in this recipe since the orzo absorbed most of the liquid. And use more cooking liquid so it will be more soup like. The way it is now would probably make a good side dish, and its vegetarian adaptable if you substitute to the chicken broth with vegetable broth.

Zesty Tomato Orzo

1 small onion, chopped
3 carrots, sliced into coins
4 stalks of celery. chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cups prepared tomato sauce
1 cup orzo
1 teaspoon fresh herbs
1 teaspoon oregano
1 stem of sage*
1 Tbs prepared pesto sauce

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook until the onion becomes translucent. (Probably about five minutes). Stir in garlic and cook for another minute or so. (Adding the garlic later prevents it from burning). Stir in sauce and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in orzo and cook according to package directions. Be sure to stir frequently and scrape the bottom of the pot, or it will stick. When there are about two minutes left in the cooking time, stir in chopped fresh herbs. Garnish with a dollop of pesto sauce and grated parmesan cheese.

*Another thing I learned about sage. While it is delicious in turkey, it is a very strong flavored-herb. Chopping it up and stirring into soup, results in biting down on a very overpowering herb flavor. Next time, I would leave the stem whole while cooking, and remove at the end, like a bay leaf. Or just leave it out.

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mollyjade said...

Tomato soup with orzo sounds good!

Cheryl said...

Yes, tomato soup with orzo does sound good. I just wish I had made it, rather than making orzo with tomatoes...