Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Orzo with Caramelized Fall Vegetables and Ginger

Funny story about this recipe....

I typically menu plan sometime on Friday or Saturday for the next week starting on Monday. Lately, since I have have been working quite a bit, my husband has been going to the store for the groceries with the list that I have made for him. Typically, he does quite well, but this last time he came home reporting that he could not find any orzo. After asking him if he looked in the pasta isle, I realized he had no idea it was pasta. No big deal. I drive by a store every day on the way home from the gym, so I told him I'd stop by to pick up some orzo on my way home.

Fast forward a couple days to when I come home, orzo in hand, to make the recipe. I should preface this by stating that I am not the best at gathering my ingredients before I begin a recipe. So, there I am, onions, garlic, and sweet potato pieces cooking away, when I begin to look for the kale. We usually keep a couple heads of green leaf or read leaf lettuce in the fridge, so I looked through them several times. No kale. All lettuce, so I called my husband...

"Hey, did you buy any kale at the store?" 

Him, "Yeah, it should be in the vegetable drawer."

"Honey, I looked through the vegetable drawer and there is nothing in there that is green and leafy." 

"Crap. What does kale look like?"

So, this is what I found in the vegetable drawer that was posing as "kale." Not sure what I am going to do with it, but if anyone has a recipe using a fennel bulb, let me know :) 
I tell you that at his expense to get a little bit of a laugh, but he really gets big props for going back to the store to get some kale. When we finally gathered all the ingredients for this, it turned out to be a great dinner. The recipe comes from The Kitchn, and I think that it makes the perfect fall meal. Pasta, balsamic vinegar, roasted vegetables. Straight up my alley. I left the mushrooms out because they aren't my thing, but if you are into them, I'm sure they would be good in here for you. Other than that, my only changes were to use less oil in the recipe as I don't think it needs nearly as much as is listed throughout the instructions.
Try it out! Especially if you can manage to find orzo and kale at the store :)

(Printable Recipe)

Orzo with Caramelized Fall Vegetables and Ginger
Adapted from The Kitchn

1/2 lb. orzo pasta
grapeseed, peanut, or vegetable oil
1 large sweet potato (about 3/4 lb)
2 medium onions (about 1 lb), finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated (~1 Tbsp)
1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 bunch kale or chard, leaves removed and finely chopped (about 2 cups)
freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese (optional)

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and salt generously. Cook the orzo until barely al dente - about 6 to 7 minutes. Drain and run under cold water. Set aside. 

Peel the sweet potato and dice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes. Heat a large saute or frying pan over high heat. Drizzle in a little oil (not olive oil — you want an oil with a high smoke point) and heat until shimmering. Add the sweet potato pieces and arrange them in one layer. Cook them over high heat until they are beginning to caramelize and turn brown - about 3-4 minutes. Flip them over and cook for another 3 minutes, stirring as little as necessary to prevent burning. You want them to brown.

Turn the heat down to medium and push the sweet potato pieces into a pile on the side. Add the diced onion to the center of the pan and sprinkle lightly with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown. Add the minced garlic and grated ginger and stir them into the onions. Cook for another 6-8 minutes until the onions turn quite brown and the potatoes are softening. If you are adding mushrooms, you can do it at this time.

Whisk the vinegar, soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons of oil. Pour this into the pan with the vegetables and mix everything together, scraping the bottom as you go. Cook all the elements together for 3 minutes over medium heat. Turn the heat up to high. Add the orzo gradually, shaking in 1 cup at a time, and stirring and scraping constantly. Cook the orzo and other vegetables on high for 5 minutes, letting the orzo brown on the bottom of the pan, then scraping it up. You are developing a little more color and flavor on the pasta and helping all the flavors combine. 

Finally, toss the chopped greens into the mix and cook for 1 more minute or until the greens are barely wilted. Turn off the heat and taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot with shredded Parmesan cheese if desired.


  1. I'll have to use olive oil, but this looks like a great dinner for us too! I had to laugh about the groceries b/c my husband does the shopping too. One week, I had written a two - close to the mushrooms, but not right next to it, so my husband came home with 1 carton of mushrooms & 2 1/2 gallons of milk. I asked why he didn't think it was strange that I wanted to 1/2 gallons of milk rather than just 1 gallon? Especially when both gallons were the same kind of milk?! ;-) I laughed too -- so sweet of him to go grocery shopping & try to come back with what we needed; sounds like the same is true in your house!

  2. This sounds like a great fall meal Tessa! Kudos to your husband for handling the shopping, even if there are a few minor blips. My hubs has been handling a lot of the cooking lately, and he's been doing well, but he's really slow in the kitchen so there have been some late dinners :)


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