Orzo with Feta, Tomato and Haricot Verts

A friend of mine made me something similar to this dish a few years ago and I have continually thought about it over time – which means it must be pretty darn good! This is my version of it – I think I got pretty close.

If you are on a “no pasta” diet (which is just unthinkable in my book) you can substitute the orzo with quinoa.

1 lb haricot verts (thin French green beans – fresh)
2 cups orzo
1 medium sweet onion
4 garlic cloves – minced
4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes (I used red and yellow – but red is fine)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
2 cups crumbled feta (use plant-based if you don’t use dairy)
Salt and pepper to taste

Get your mise en place ready. Fill a 4 quart pot with salted water for both the orzo and the green beans.

Finely chop onion and mince garlic. Quarter and seed tomatoes. Chop into 1 inch pieces. Trim the ends of the beans and cut in half. You can leave them whole or cut them smaller – it’s all preference here.

Have a bowl of ice and cold water standing by for the blanching of the green beans.

Ready To Cook?
In a large skillet saute onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat, until translucent. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring continually until softened – about 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

In the boiling salted water blanch beans for 1 minute. With a slotted spoon or spider transfer beans to the ice water so they will stop cooking. This process will keep your beans bright green and they will retain a crunch. If you put them in the dish raw – they will be a rather bitter – but blanching brings out their sweetness. Drain beans well and pat dry.

Add beans to the tomato mixture and return water in the pot to a boil. Boil orzo until al dente (it will continue cooking when added to mixture – so you don’t want to overcook it in the boiling process). Drain orzo and add to mixture. Add the white wine vinegar, parsley, feta and salt and pepper to taste. BE SURE TO TASTE! The feta is pretty salty – so don’t over do it. Toss to combine well.

This is great warm or cold!

The Perfect Bite
Here’s where I love to stack my fork to get a good complex flavor bite. Be sure to get some orzo, tomato, a haricot vert and feta together on your fork or in your spoon. Sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy! It’s truely a perfect bite…

The Perfect Pairing
And try pairing it with a sweet yet oak-y Chardonnay like Fat Bastard. (sorry mom, but it’s French!) Smooth in the mouth with light aromas and a long, toasty finish. It’s  a perfect pairing with a creamy pasta dressed in olive oil and tangy feta.


Sweet Potato Orzo with Mascarpone Sauce, Asparagus Tips & Truffle Oil

I love discovering a new food and on a recent trip to Pike’s Market in Seattle I stumbled across a dried pasta vendor selling Pappardelle‘s products. They had a myriad of flat cut and pasta blends… but the one that sounded best to me was the Sweet Potato Orzo. Oh my heavenly word… I purchased a pound of it (it’s actually cheaper to do so online… check the above link).

I couldn’t wait to get home and start experimenting! Keep an eye out – I also bought chocolate linguine… and I’m trying that out next week!

I started researching a few ideas of how to best bring out the flavors of this new pasta… and came up with the following recipe. The final touch was when I added white truffle oil.. prior to that, it was a good taste. But I didn’t get that “wow” factor until I added a couple of drops of the precious truffle oil – also a Pike’s Market treasure. I’m always looking to get that “oh… my… gosh…” response when I ask a willing friend to try a bite. Definitely got it this time.

(serves 6)
1lb Sweet Potato Orzo
1/3 cup fresh asparagus tips (cut 1″ to 1.5″ tip off of stalk)
1 clove garlic minced
1/3 cup shelled, toasted pine nuts (toast your self at 3 min on top rack of a 350 degree oven)
4 tblspns butter
7 oz mascarpone or cream cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp of Truffle oil for drizzling

Ready To Cook?
Melt butter in skillet and sauté garlic until golden brown. Add asparagus tips and continue stirring for 3 minutes and remove from heat.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in 6-8 quarts of rapidly boiling salted water until al dente. While pasta is cooking, add the mascarpone (or cream cheese) to the garlic/butter mixture and heat on low until asparagus tips are tender. Be careful not too overcook or asparagus will become mushy. Should be done in 3-5 minutes.

Drain pasta (don’t rinse), toss in the Parmesan and pine nuts and transfer to serving dish. Stir in sauce. Top each serving with a sprinkle of Parmesan and 1-2 drops of white truffle oil. Be careful as a little goes a long way. Serve at once.

The Perfect Bite
Be sure to get a little sweet potato orzo, pine nut and asparagus on your fork. The blend of sweet potato and pine nut with the buttery cheesiness of the mascarpone… will be reminiscent of the candied yam casserole your mom used to make at Thanksgiving. But combined with the asparagus, Parmesan and truffle oil… your pallet will be surprised with a profile of favors you might not have experienced before. Enjoy!

The Perfect Pairing
What better pairing for this unique blend of flavors than a blend of reds from Cline Cellars? Cline’s Cashmere 2007 is a silky blend of Mourvèdre, Syrah and Grenache. With a purchase of this 2007 Cashmere… Cline Cellars will donate $25,000 to the Breast Cancer Network of Strength’s Ride to Empower. Visit their website to learn more.

Did You Know?
To quote Julia Child, “Don’t be afraid!” Truffle Oil is one of those mysterious ingredients we hear about on Food Network cooking shows like Top Chef Masters… but most of us really have no idea what to do with it. White Truffles (Tuber aestivum), often called Autumn Truffles, are even more rare than Black Truffles. Their distinctive, subtle flavor uniquely complements pasta, cheese and fish dishes.