Recipe: Sicilian Orzo with Roasted Veggies
I admit, I don’t have a formal background in cooking, but growing up around good cooks who were always willing to try something new, being married to a fussy eater, and spending several years living in Europe, built a foundation that has paid off for me now (there was also the period of obsessively watching The Food Network, but we won’t talk about that now).
If I ever doubted my culinary skills, I doubt them no longer after something that happened at my weekly Wednesday Farmer’s Market at The Nutrition Center in Great Barrington.
Here is the scenario: I sell my entire line of blends, salts, peppers and miscellany at these markets. Since my blends tend to be unusual, I figured out quickly that a great way to show people how to use the products is to cook for them.
I’ve been cooking up a storm, then packaging up the various dishes in nice deli containers and offering them up for sale at the markets. I tend to do simple dishes that are mostly vegetable-based, and throw in some rice, pasta, or couscous for the carb lovers.
Several weeks ago, I revisited one of my favorite combinations, oven roasted veggies flavored with my Sunny Sicilian blend (think cinnamon, orange and fennel), mixed into some orzo with a dash of sea salt and splash of extra virgin olive oil.
One of my customers that week was a young man who admitted he doesn’t cook much. I was glad to sell him a pound of the Sicilian orzo dish, offering to give him a fork so he could dig into it on the spot and take advantage of my many bottles of sea salt samples if he felt it needed more. He declined, saying he’d wait until he got home. OK, thank you, that will be $5, I hope you enjoy it, have a good evening – a typical transaction.
Fast forward to the following week.
It was pretty hot that afternoon, and most of the vendors were sitting back in their chairs behind their booths trying to stay cool, me included. An hour into the market, I heard a car screech into the parking lot, and saw a young man bolt out of the car. “Dang, now that’s a fan of fresh produce if I ever saw one!”, I thought to myself. But then he started racing across the lawn, making a beeline for my booth. Halfway there, he stuck out his arm and pointed at me, yelling “YOU!”.
Can you picture this? Do you know what was going through my mind (not the least of which was “Help!”). He skidded to a stop in front of me, breathing heavily, and we stared at each other. He blurted out “Do you remember me? I bought some orzo from you last week!”.
I’m having an inner dialogue now – do I remember him? Did I remember to tell him there were pits in the olives? Is my liability insurance up to date? Can I see both of his hands? Can a spice vendor have stalkers? Where is the Market Manager? Help!
All the while, I am just staring at him.
Finally, my confusion and consternation register with him, and he proceeds to explain his odd behavior. It seems that he did, indeed, take the Sicilian orzo home with him. He took a bite. He took another. He fell in love. His roommate asked for a bite and he rudely refused him. He took another bite. Then he started berating himself for only buying one container from me. And ate some more.
There may have been a moan in between there although I admit that’s my own embellishment. He gobbled down the rest of the dish then started counting the hours until the next Market so he could once again dip his fork into the spicy garden of delights.
I was grinning like an idiot by the end of his story, of course, but my heart was still beating a little too fast from his abrupt entrance and lunatic yelling (“YOU!”). He noticed and said “I’m sorry, I really scared you, didn’t I?”. I admitted that yes, I had been a little unnerved but that his enthusiasm for my Sicilian orzo more than made up for it.
Once we got that out of the way, he excitedly asked if I had more of that orzo for sale today. No luck, I had made my own version of Salade Nicoise, which he was happy to try out – and he bought TWO of them.
I won’t tease you any longer – here is the recipe for my nectar of the gods in the guise of “Sicilian Orzo with Roasted Veggies”:
1 lb orzo pasta
3 zucchini, sliced into half circles
5 carrots, sliced into large matchsticks
1 red pepper, sliced into wide strips
1 medium yellow onion, cut into wedges
5 cloves garlic, cut into large chunks
regular olive oil
extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp plus 1 tsp Sunny Sicilian blend
½ tsp sea salt (I use my Sicilian Tripani salt)
½ lb black olives
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Prep all of the vegetables except the olives and lemon, and spread out onto 2 large baking sheets. Sprinkle on the 2 tsps of Sunny Sicilian and ½ tsp of sea salt. Drizzle with everyday olive oil – about 1/3 cup – and toss well with your hands to coat all of the pieces.
Bake until the vegetables are tender and beginning to caramelize – 30-40 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the orzo according to package directions. Leave the orzo in the colander until it’s time to assemble the dish so it will cool, but do not rinse it.
Once the vegetables are ready, return the orzo to the cooking pot and add in all of the vegetables, including the olives. Add 1 tsp of additional Sunny Sicilian blend, then taste for any additional sea salt. Finally, drizzle in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil and stir.
This dish can be eaten warm, or refrigerated for later. Like many blended dishes, it is often better after it has had time to meld or come together. Right before serving, squeeze 1/2 a fresh lemon over the top, then wedge the other 1/2 and garnish with it.
Don’t forget to make enough to share!
Posted on June 23, 2011, in Main dish, Recipes, Side dish, Spice Blends, Sunny Sicilian, Testimonial, Uncategorized, Vegetarian and tagged farmers market, happy customer, orzo, recipe, Sicilian. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.