Orzo with Roasted Asparagus, Chickpeas and Eggplant in Smokey Arrabbiata SauceOrzo with Roasted Asparagus, Chickpeas and Eggplant in Smokey Arrabbiata Sauce

What’s for Dinner (and Lunch!): Orzo with Roasted Asparagus, Chickpeas and Eggplant in Smokey Arrabbiata Sauce

Last Sunday as I evaluated the pantry and fridge, deciding I wasn’t in the mood to tackle my weekly trip to the grocery store, I realized I had enough leftover fresh vegetables and pantry staples to pull together a meal for dinner and lunch leftovers. I’ve recently seen recipes substituting chickpeas (or garbanzo beans) for pasta as a healthier, gluten-free alternative. I only had about 1/4 – 1/3 of a box of orzo, so I thought it would be the perfect match to try.

For my gluten-free friends, this meal could be made gluten-free by eliminating the orzo and increasing the amount of chickpeas. Next time, I may even roast a red pepper or two and puree to add to my smokey arrabbiata sauce.

Orzo with Roasted Asparagus, Chickpeas and Eggplant in Smokey Arrabbiata SauceOrzo with Roasted Asparagus, Chickpeas and Eggplant in Smokey Arrabbiata Sauce

Orzo with Roasted Asparagus, Chickpeas and Eggplant in Smokey Arrabbiata Sauce

1/3 box (about 5 ounces) orzo
1-14 ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
1 bunch asparagus, ends tripped and sliced in 2-inch chunks
1 small (1/2 large) eggplant, diced
1 small (or 1/2 large) eggplant
3 tablespoons EVOO
Salt and pepper
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 – 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
1-28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Fresh basil
Grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a pot of water with salt to a rapid boil and cook orzo until al dente. Drain.

Spread chickpeas, and sliced/diced asparagus and eggplant on a large baking pan. Toss with 1 tablespoon EVOO, and season with salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 20-25 minutes, tossing halfway, until asparagus and eggplant are tender.

In a medium pot, heat 2 tablespoons EVOO with minced garlic and crushed red pepper on medium heat, stirring continuously until garlic begins to become fragrant and yellow in color, being careful not to burn the garlic and crushed red pepper. Add crushed tomatoes, smoked paprika and desired chopped basil to the pot, simmering sauce on low heat for about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine orzo, roasted chickpeas and vegetables, and desired amount of sauce, mixing to combine. Serve with extra fresh basil for a garnish and grated Parmesan.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

One of my favorite side dishes at summer barbecues and picnics has always been pasta salad. Heck, I even love eating lunch on Fridays at Whole Foods when their salad bar features every salad imaginable from yellow fin tuna pasta salad and marinated artichokes with tomatoes to southwestern beef and red bliss potato salad.

Time and time again, I fall back on my reliable Maryland Shrimp Pasta Salad. But it’s heavy and creamy, and I wanted a cold (and lighter) salad I could serve with dinner that would pair well with Barbecue Alaskan Salmon.

Orzo is a rice-shaped Italian pasta. The pasta absorbs flavors well so dressing it with olive oil, red wine vinegar and lemon juice goes a long way. This would be a great alternative pasta salad for a picnic and you could experiment with adding different vegetables and cheese based on your preference.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

1 lb. orzo
Kosher salt
1/2 cup pine nuts
8 tablespoons EVOO
4 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup Italian parsley, chopped
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 cucumber, diced
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
12 pepperoncinis, sliced
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Bring a pot of water to a rapid boil. Generously salt water and cook orzo until tender, approximately 7-9 minutes. Drain and set aside.

While orzo is cooking, spread pine nuts on a baking sheet and toast lightly in oven on 400 degrees. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat two tablespoons of EVOO on medium heat in a non-stick pan. Saute chopped green onions for approximately 2 minutes. Add parsley, lemon juice, lemon zest, toasted pine nuts and cooked orzo. Saute for 3-4 minutes for flavors to combine and absorb into the orzo. Remove from heat.

In a large bowl, combine cucumber, green bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, red onion and pepperoncinis to orzo mixture. Additionally add crumbled feta cheese, red wine vinegar and remaining six tablespoons of EVOO. Mix well. Can be refrigerated or served immediately.

Roasted Artichoke Salad

Antipasto: Roasted Artichoke Salad

You know what’s good? Leftover brasato al barolo ragu sauce. I’d venture to say the meat only became more tender when reheated in the oven over gnocchi, and the flavor of the barolo wine has completely fused with the tomato sauce.

You know what’s also good? Roasted artichoke salad. I have mentioned my obsession with Ina Garten before. A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to catch the episode at the gym while I was on the elliptical when she makes this antipasto and baked shrimp scampi. Since I’ve already raved about the baked shrimp scampi, it was only a matter of time until I made her artichoke salad.

I’ve made a few changes from her original recipe and have cut the recipe in half. Served atop a bed of arugula and baby spinach with fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil, this makes a great antipasto that is served at room temperature and generously serves six. The flavors of the roasted artichokes and red pepper are a tasty balance to the zing from the basil-white wine vinegar vinaigrette. If you have a larger crowd or would like to make this into a full side salad, I recommend doubling the recipe below.

Roasted Artichoke Salad

Roasted Artichoke Salad

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa: Ina Garten

2 boxes (9 oz. each) frozen artichokes hearts, defrosted
1 large red pepper, cored and halved
Salt and pepper
1 shallot, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons white wine or champagne vinegar
1/2 cup fresh chopped basil leaves
2 tablespoons capers, drained
1/4 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
2 pinches crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a baking pan, spread artichokes and red pepper face down. Drizzle EVOO generously over the artichokes and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes.

To make the vinaigrette, place the minced shallot, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process for five seconds. Add the basil leaves and process into a green puree. With the processor running, slowly pour 1/4 cup olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube until the ingredients are finely pureed. Set aside.

Place the roasted red pepper in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 20 minutes to allow it to sweat. This will help the skin to peel away from the pepper.

Place the artichoke hearts in a bowl and toss enough vinaigrette to moisten. Add the sliced red pepper, chopped red onion, capers, parsley and red pepper flakes. Taste and add more vinaigrette as desired. Let stand for 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend before serving.

“I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti”

I’m normally not a fan of memoirs, or most non-fiction. But as some of my closest friends know, about a year ago I was on a crazy dating ride of my own. “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” is Giulia’s Melucci’s memoir of her dating escapades and search for Mr. Right with recipes interwoven in the narrative and relationships. One by one, she found boyfriends, fed them well, and established relationships. After all, the saying is the path to a man’s heart is through his stomach!

The highlight of the book is the food. While most of the recipes are Italian, they’re simple to make with ingredients that aren’t hard to find, but take it one step above the norm making you look like a pro in the cucina. Some of the recipes even boast cute, hilarious and unique names such as “First-Date Butterflies” and “Spaghetti and Meatballs for Cooking Sluts and Those Who Love Them.” If you like food, and you like chick-lit, this is the book for you.

One of my favorite recipes from Melucci is the Simple Tomato Sauce and Pasta for Two. I make this all the time when I’m in the mood for a quick and easy homemade sauce. If you make it with crushed canned tomatoes, you’ll definitely have leftovers, which can also be frozen!

Simple Tomato Sauce and Pasta for Two

Adapted from “I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti” by Giulia Melucci

1 cup whole plum tomatoes (or 1-28 oz. can crushed tomatoes, I prefer Red Pack brand)
1 tablespoon EVOO
1 clove garlic, minced (I confess, I use 3!), or 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
Pinch of hot red pepper flakes
Basil leaves
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 lb. penne, or pasta of your choice
Freshly grated parmigiano, pecorino, or any grating cheese to sprinkle on top

Run the tomatoes through a food mill or puree them with an immersion blender, chop them, or just break them up with your hands (or just used pre-crushed tomatoes!). Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, then add the garlic (or onions) along with the red pepper flakes and 1 whole basil leaf. Lower heat (you do not want your base to brown) and saute until the garlic is lightly golden (or the onions are translucent), 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and raise the heat back to medium; when the sauce begins to simmer, add the sugar, wine and salt. After about 5 minutes, check to see if it needs more salt; if it tastes acidic, add another pinch or two of sugar. Reduce the heat to low and taste after about 15 minutes. When all the flavors are nicely blended, it’s done.

Place a large, covered pot filled with water over high heat. When the water has reached a rigorous boil, add a generous dose of salt. Add the pasta and let the water return to a boil. Cook until the pasta is firm to the bite. When it is done, drain and divide. Add a ladle-full of the sauce and a few torn basil leaves.

Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese

Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese

Warm weather reminds me of outdoor BBQs and my mom’s potato salad. However, potato salad (as good as it is) isn’t always appropriate year-round to pair as a side dish with dinner. I also highly doubt it’s good for you with most recipes drenching the potatoes in mayo. That’s why I was excited to find this recipe in Martha Stewart Living (I’ve been on a Martha kick) this month paired with a simple white wine roasted chicken and sugar snap peas that you can make any season!

The tart goat cheese gradually melts onto the warm vinaigrette-covered potatoes to create a creamy coating similar to traditional potato salad recipes. I normally add a clove of garlic sliced to the boiling potatoes for extra flavor, but you can forgo this additional ingredient if you use goat cheese with herbs like I did.

Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese

Warm Potato Salad with Goat Cheese

Adapted from Martha Stewart

2 lbs. red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons white-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons EVOO
3 ounces crumbled goat cheese (1/2 cup)
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Course salt and ground pepper

Cover potatoes with water in a medium saucepan; season with salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 tablespoon cooking liquid. Let potatoes cool for 5 minutes.

Whisk together vinegar, mustard and reserved cooking liquid. Add oil in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly until emulsified (mixing of two ingredients that don’t normally mix together well, as in oil in salad dressings).

Transfer potatoes to a bowl and drizzle with vinaigrette. Gently stir in goat cheese, celery, shallot and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.