Earlier this week, I spent the evening with my friend, Karyn, who is in the midst of moving. "Ohhh, moving is stressful!" I hear you say. It sure is. My move from London nearly killed me. In fact, I can count the wrinkles on my face that were added by that move. The paperwork, the thought of all our "stuff" on a boat just waiting to sink to the bottom of the Atlantic, and the fact that I lived in an empty house with only camping chairs was enough to age me.
All of this seems like an over-reaction considering my friend also has an 8 week old baby. Baby Davis is a tiny super-cute munchkin who goo-goo'd and ga-ga'd me until my heart melted. Karyn is an uber-cool new Mom and she seemed perfectly relaxed and unfazed by the fact that very little seemed to be packed with only two weeks to go. That, in a nut-shell, is why I love this chick.
Yes- those are "Vans" socks he's wearing.
I decided a dinner delivery was in order. Who has time to mess around with food in that situation?? I arrived to the smell of sweet fig candles and a perfectly clean kitchen complete with a fully loaded baby bottle tree. Loaded in my "New Mom rescue sack" was a big tub of Orzo, fresh Caprese focaccia from the local market, and most importantly: wine.
I just started working a block from the French Market here in Chicago and I love it for many reasons. Saigon Sisters is certainly tops, but I adore the Pappardelle's Pasta stand with its flavorful handcrafted gourmet pastas. Other flavored pasta I've tried in the past have come out of the boiling water with the taste left behind. Gladly, this is not the case with Pappardelle's.
You can easily make this with plain Orzo found in any super-market. I like adding some simple flavor layers along the way, careful not to over power the pasta, but enough to add interest. Pappardelle's Pasta has a website with recipes to try, and there are plenty ideas for inspiration. You can add veggies that happen to be in season, which is why I never end up making the same way twice.
You can also add roasted chicken or shrimp for a heartier meal. For the tomatoes, you can use chopped fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes or oven-roasted (also known as sun-blushed tomatoes in the UK.) I prefer fresh or oven-roasted/sun-blushed instead of sun-dried. I find them too bitter and strong.
This dish is great at room temperature or cold, which is why it's perfect for a picnic or when you're doing dinner delivery.
Orzo with Seasonal Vegetables, Feta and Arugula
Adapted from Pappardelle's Pasta Co.
1 lb Orzo
3/4 cup oven-roasted tomatoes
2 tbsp oil from the tomatoes or use regular extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp fresh oregano, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 bunch of asparagus, grilled or roasted and cut into bite size pieces
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 large handful of arugula (known as rocket in the UK) keeping some aside for garnish
salt and freshly ground black pepper
dash of balsamic vinegar to finish
Grill the asparagus in a grill pan until cooked through. Set aside and chop into bite size pieces. Cook the pasta in rapidly boiling salted water until al dente (about 8-10 minutes).
Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, oregano, olives, salt, pepper, oil from the tomatoes, lemon juice, lemon zest, asparagus and toss (everything but arugula).
Drain the pasta and to the mix and toss again. At this point, if you're going to be taking the pasta with you, put it in an air-tight container and wait to add the feta and the arugula until you're ready to serve.
To serve, toss the pasta with the crumbled feta and the arugula. Check the seasoning.
Spoon onto plates, garnish with extra arugula and a dash of balsamic vinegar.
Serve with some nice bread and a glass of wine.