Saturday, August 22, 2009

Toasted Nut Orzo (p.33)

Pasta is a mainstay at our apartment. Pretty much every week we have one meal where the main course is a pasta dish. Pasta is quick and ridiculously easy to make (seriously, you cannot screw it up. Go ahead and try), and to top it all off, it's delicious. I don't care what the Carb Nazis say, pasta is not leaving my menu (though I do try to go whole wheat when I can- Trader Joe's whole wheat spaghetti is the best I've found, and damn cheap, too). However, I'm always looking for new ways to serve it. As you can imagine, opening a jar of store-bought sauce and dumping it on the plate can get old sometimes. We change things up- a red sauce, a white sauce, tortellini in olive oil with a spice sprinkle, etc. But I'm always happy to try a new style of pasta.

Which is why I was excited to try Pat's (we've discussed him before) Toasted Nut Orzo. I liked his rice so much that I had high expectations. Pat's character really shone through in this description- he yells at the reader/preparer about olive oils and making sure the nuts don't get blackened. Plus, there's the arrogance of the "yield" portion of the recipe, which reads "This will serve about four real lucky folks." Well, it served two lucky folks- Melissa and me - And we both really enjoyed it.

Before I go into too many details, let's talk olive oil. The recipe starts with a description admonishing anyone who doesn't use a "first cold pressed" extra virgin olive oil. It's a rather lengthy diatribe (for such a small book) and nearly had me convinced that I needed to run out to the store to buy some higher quality oil. The stuff I have is cold pressed and extra virgin, but it's not first cold press, and it's pretty cheap for a big jug at TJ's. But you know what? I resisted. I've tried several fancier olive oils and definitely know that there's a wide variety of flavors for something that's marketed as a single product family. My stuff may only cost $6, but I like the flavor, and I think that's what's important. I'm pretty sure this section was included so people who only own one pan and a serrated knife don't go thinking they can substitute vegetable oil or the cheap olive oil they use for frying for something that's basically a dressing (and as such, should have a lot of flavor). Moving on.

I like nuts, but I like them by themselves or in a dessert, for the most part. I was a little hesitant to throw them into a pasta dish, which seems like a strange texture mix to me. But, that's what this is all about - trying things you normally wouldn't. When I was toasting the nuts and scallions and it came time to flip/toss them, I really wanted to do that thing I see professional chefs and Top Chef contestants do where they just flick the pan and send the contents flying into the air, catching them a moment later. I started to, but I just couldn't get up the nerve. I think I need to practice with a cold pan and a bag of M&M's or something before I try it on a meal I actually have to eat (same goes for cracking an egg with one hand, which I also tried this week and chickened out on).
To my delight (I was going to say surprise, but I've already learned to trust Chris Onstad and his cookbook- there hasn't been a clunker, yet) the almonds and pecans made a nice addition to the dish. The crunch was satisfying and the toasty, smoky flavor worked very nicely with the scallions and the oil. Oh, and there's feta cheese in it, too, which is a good way to earn a positive review from me. I simply can't get enough feta. Or goat cheese, for that matter. Any goat cheese recipes in this book? No? Damn.

The good news is, we have enough of all the ingredients leftover to make this meal twice (and they didn't cost that much to began with), and I'm sure we will be doing so soon. Until I cook again,


No comments:

Post a Comment