Last weekend my son and daughter-in-law prepared a delicious meal of grilled chicken and vegetable kabobs with sides of fresh fruit and a rice and vegetable dish. They used a rice recipe that I’ve been making for years. It’s a baked dish that takes all the guess-work out of how long to cook the rice. You don’t want it to turn to mush and crunchy rice is surely not appealing. Baked in broth and a bit of butter, the rice turns out perfectly every time. Last weekend, my son and daughter-in-law used fragrant jasmine rice and it was wonderful.
After spending a couple of weeks working on perfecting an orzo salad for my column, my mind started turning with thoughts of trying to use the small, flat, rice-shaped pasta as a replacement for rice in the baked side-dish that’s been a family favorite over the years.
Silly me — I thought for sure this weekend that brings us the month of May would definitely bring warm sunshine that would demand a meal from the grilling. I was so wrong.
The Grill Master in my house was a good sport as he went out in the rain to light the grill. During a short break in the rain, chicken kabobs cooked to perfection over the hot coals. With an outside temperature of 45 degrees, a little heat coming from the oven as the orzo baked was appreciated.
I used a little less broth for the orzo dish than I do when I make the dish with rice. It took less time to bake, too. The orzo absorbed the broth as it baked. It’s texture was creamy. It was the perfect go-along for chicken kabobs.
Since the vegetables are added raw and bake with the orzo for only 10 minutes, it’s important to mince them. The carrots will have an al dente texture.
When I’ve made this dish early in the day to serve with supper, I bake it for the required time, then take it out of the oven and stir in the vegetables. The vegetables will cook a bit as they sit in the hot pot with the orzo. At serving time, just transfer the baked orzo with vegetables to a microwave-safe bowl and heat it up for a few minutes in the microwave oven.
I’m optimistic that warm weather will soon arrive and stay for a while. Baked Orzo with Vegetables will stay on my list of sides to serve with anything grilled all through the sunny spring and summer season.
Baked Orzo with Vegetables
- 1 cup uncooked orzo
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 1/2 cups boiling chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 6 tablespoons minced Italian flat-leaf parsley
- 6 tablespoons minced carrots
- 6 tablespoons minced celery
- 6 tablespoons minced green onions
- 6 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange slivered almonds in a single layer on a small baking sheet. Place in oven as it preheats. Watch the almonds closely and remove from oven when they begin to turn light brown.
Melt butter in a 2-quart oven-safe pot over medium heat. Add uncooked orzo. Stir the orzo as it toasts in the butter for about 5 minutes. Carefully pour in the boiling chicken broth. Stir. Place top on pot. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 35 minutes.
Remove pot from oven. Stir orzo. Add vegetables. Place top on pot and return to oven. Bake for another 10 minutes.
Remove from oven. Add toasted slivered almonds and parsley. Serve hot. Makes 4 servings.