Monday, February 24, 2014

Diane's Orzo and Peas

Our menus have been a bit up in the air lately.  My tutoring schedule has changed daily based on weather conditions and snow, snow and more snow.  But, I always have a list of possibilities ready to prepare at a moments notice.  We have also been living on an austerity budget, so this weeks list includes many "cheap" meals. 

Ditilini Pasta
The dinner for today is already in the rice cooker.  It is a modified version of ditilini and peas.  Ditilini and peas is an Italian quick meal.  It features a buttery sauce of garlic and herbs poured over freshly made ditilini shaped pasta and peas. The peas should be small enough to hide inside the ditilini.  And it should be served covered in freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. 

Orzo Pasta

My mother used to make the dish with small shell pasta.  The peas could hide in there too!  Her plan was always to make it when we had leftover peas.  Now since I love peas, there were rarely any leftover, so I would put a cup, or so, aside ahead of the meal to ensure we would have this comfort food favorite the next day.

Today, I am making this dish with orzo pasta.  Orzo pasta looks like large rice.  It maintains its "al dente " texture even as it cools and is great for cold salads and warm recipes as well. 

Anyhow, here is my method:

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the bottom of a rice cooker turned on the white rice setting.

1 6 cloves of garlic, sliced 
1 jalapeno pepper (or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
1 large onion, diced the size of orzo

Stir as the  aromatics soften and begin to smell luscious.  Add 1 package of onion soup mix.  You know the kind; it's used for dips.  Stir around and add 4 cups of water. 

Stir in 1 pound of orzo pasta.  Close the rice cooker and let cook.  After 10 minutes, open the cooker and stir to keep the pasta from becoming cemented to the bottom of the cooker.  I use the rice cooker paddle to stir pasta.  If your rice cooker tends to cook hotter than mine, you might have to add 1 cup more water.

When the rice cooker beeps and is done, add 2 cups frozen peas or a combination of frozen green veggies.  Broccoli, kale, or spinach all work well.  Also add 1 full stick of butter sliced into slabs that will melt fairly quickly. 

Stir all around and close the rice cooker.  Wait about 5-8 minutes to allow the veggies to defrost and the butter to melt.  Serve in bowls with lots of grated cheese.

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