Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Mediterranean Chicken Orzo
Orzo is a type of pasta. In Greek it's called Kritharaki and it looks just like rice. In fact, it looks so much like rice, that when I cooked it for my 30 year-old cousin who lived in Russia his whole life, I actually had to convince him that it is not rice!
Usually there are two different "sizes" of orzo. It doesn't really matter which one you use. The difference is mostly visual and of course the one that is bigger requires a little more time to cook. But you could always try and see if it's ready.
Anyways, I was not really expecting to find this kind of pasta in Amsterdam, as it is supposed to be something very local. Imagine my surprise when I saw it while checking the Turkish stores in the neighbourhood. One of the many great things that I can find only there. That's why it feels like home. At the end, Greek and Turkish cooking have a lot in common. Well good for us, because I haven't seen any Greek store here around, so the Turkish guys really save me from missing mom's great cooking!
I was so happy that I found orzo in Amsterdam that I used the whole 500 gr pack of it. Of course the resulting amount of food turned out enormous for only two people. So you may as well cut all the amounts in half.
500 gr orzo pasta
400 gr skinless, boneless chicken breast, chopped in bites (You could prepare it without chicken for a vegetarian version. It is still very delicious!)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 zucchini, diced
1 green pepper, sliced
2 cans chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp chilly flakes
2 tsp sugar
10 grains allspice
2 tbsp fresh basil leaves
salt and ground black and red pepper to taste
1. Cook the orzo just as you would cook a regular pasta, in a pot of boiling salted water, until it is almost soft. Drain and set aside.
2. In a large pan heat the oil. Add the chicken and cook over a medium heat until the chicken is cooked through.
3. Add onions, garlic, mushrooms, carrots, green pepper and pine nuts. Cover and cook until the vegetables are soft.
4. Pour in the tomatoes and bring to boil. Add the zucchini, herbs and spices and cook over a low heat for about 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the orzo absorb the juices for few minutes.
5. Add the basil leaves and serve.
Alternatively you could put the mixture into a ceramic oven-proof dish, spread some mozzarella on top and bake in the oven for few minutes until the cheese makes a nice golden crust.