Really excellent side dishes just don't get enough attention and yet often, they're what makes a meal memorable, lifting an ordinary entree to new heights. So today is dedicated to that underdog of the culinary experience, the "Robin" of the dinner plate, the all-too-neglected side dish. Let's hear it for the little guy!
I totally get it--on weeknights when you're rushing to get dinner on the table after a long day, the last thing you want to do is start fussing with the "side". That's often how I feel, especially after I've made a new and possibly complicated entree, so there are plenty of nights when I simply boil brown rice or steam some broccoli. But sometimes, when you're making something run of the mill, like plain grilled chicken or fish, you need something on the other side of the plate to liven things up. Those are the nights for something not only tasty but visually pleasing too, and this carrot orzo really does the trick and is so worth the extra effort!
You start by finely chopping carrots in a food processor.
Next, you saute them with the orzo for a few minutes, adding water, chicken broth and a minced garlic clove in the process.
Once all of the liquid has disappeared, you stir in parmesan cheese and chopped scallions.
The whole thing takes about 20 minutes and very closely resembles risotto in texture, but without all the stirring! Each bite is a tender but slightly chewy mouthful, with the wonderful separate but somehow cohesive tastes of carrot, scallion and parmesan. I know I'm selling this as a side, but truthfully, I'd be happy just eating this as a main course, it's so yummy! Now that's the kudos a side dish deserves!
Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 20-25 minutes
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup orzo (about 8 ounces)
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh scallions, chopped
1. Place the carrots in the food processor (or blender) and pulse a few times until finely chopped. If you don't have either, you can chop them by hand too.
2. In a large heavy skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the orzo and the carrots and saute until the orzo is golden, about 5 minutes. Pour in the water and chicken broth and add the minced garlic as well. Cook uncovered, until all of the liquid is absorbed, stirring frequently. This should take about 10 minutes. Then stir in the parmesan cheese and scallions, season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
3. Leftover orzo reheats well in a saucepan or in the microwave and keeps for several days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Note: Recipe adapted from an old Bon Appetit issue.