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October 14, 2016

Mediterranean Orzo

by Anne Paddock

Garlic, lemon, and capers along with fresh herbs add an abundance of flavor to pasta and vegetables in this recipe for Mediterranean Orzo. Adapted from a recipe of the same name by the Purple Carrot, Mediterranean Orzo is a colorful dish that you would expect to be served at a cafe in the Mediterranean…but, without all the oil. Dairy-free, low in fat, high in protein, and with no added sugar, this plant-based dish is easy to cook and ready in less than 20 minutes.

With only 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the whole dish, Mediterranean Orzo relies on three vegetables:  zucchini, tomatoes, and mushrooms – along with orzo, a pasta shaped like a long grain piece of rice – coated with a light lemony garlic sauce for flavor. The result is a surprisingly creamy dish of pasta and vegetables (because as the zucchini cooks, the ribbons take on a pasta-like texture. Combined with the sauce, the results are simply delicious).


Mediterranean Orzo  (serves 3-4)Mediterranean_Orzo

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat orzo
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon Penzy’s Sunny Paris seasoning (a blend of shallot, chives, green peppercorn, basil, tarragon, chervil, bay leaf, and dill weed) or your favorite seasoning or blend of dried herbs and spices
  • 10-ounce packet of Villagio Marzano tomatoes or 1 pint sweet grape tomatoes
  • 2 medium-sized zucchini (about 8-10 inches in length and about a pound each)
  • 8 ounces of Bella Mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped

Mediterranean_OrzoFill a medium-sized saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Add the orzo and cook about 10 minutes (until al dente). Reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking water and then drain the orzo and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Cut both ends off the zucchini and make ribbons using a peeler (pretend you are peeling a carrot). Chop the core of the zucchini into tiny pieces. For the tomatoes, cut in half and then in half again so that each tomato is now cut into four pieces. Remove the stems of the mushrooms and discard. Cut the mushrooms into quarters also. Set the vegetables aside.

Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and heat to low-medium. Press the garlic cloves through a garlic press and add to the oil. Saute for about 2 minutes. Add the zest of the lemon and then the juice of the lemon, the capers, the 1/3 cup of cooking water, and the tablespoon of seasoning. Turn the heat to medium. Stir to blend and bring to a simmer.

In a separate small skillet, heat on high and add the mushrooms. Don’t worry about adding any liquid as the mushrooms will give off water as they heat up.  Stir frequently until the mushrooms are nicely browned but still firm. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Add the zucchini ribbons (and the chopped core pieces) and chopped tomatoes to the large skillet blending the liquid with the zucchini ribbons and tomatoes. Cook for 3-4 minutes just until the zucchini begins to wilt. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat.Mediterranean_Orzo_in_Saucepan

Season with salt and pepper and top with freshly chopped scallions and parsley.Mediterranean_Orzo

Serve immediately.Mediterranean_Orzo

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