Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Greatest Recipe Ever Told

My favorite recipe of all time? And the winner is...I have to think about it.
There are a lot of factors that go into choosing one's favorite recipe. It could be the one that's the easiest to make, or the most delicious, or the one that your family likes the most. And we can break it down even more - to a favorite appetizer or potato recipe or chocolate cake.

But if by favorite we simply mean the recipe that we go to time and time again, when we want something truly delicious, easy to make, fairly flexible in terms of ingredients and suitable for family OR company, then I would have to vote for The Barefoot Contessa's

It is the quintessential Ina Garten recipe - wonderfully flavorful and beautiful to look at, as well as simple to make. In fact, forget it being MY favorite recipe, it just might be (for home cooks, now, I'm talking)

You may certainly make the recipe as it's written. It's pretty perfect. But I've made it soooooooo many times with so many little additions and changes that I'll share them with you.

Orzo With Roasted Vegetables (serves 8)
(This feeds 8 generously with leftovers. Even if I'm making this just for 2, I still make the full recipe, because it's so good the next day and the 2 after that.)

2-3 Japanese eggplant, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 BIG red onion, peeled and 1-inch diced
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 tbls. olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. orzo
For the dressing:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup good olive oil
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

To assemble:
4 scallions, finely chopped
3/4 cup pine nuts, cashews, walnuts or almonds, toasted and chopped coarsely
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
optional: 6 boneless chicken thighs, marinaded in a bit of the dressing and grilled or broiled and sliced

Preheat the oven to 425°F. 

(If I'm in a hurry, I broil everything. Convection broil is particularly effective. Put your shelf one down from the top and watch the veggies carefully. Of course, you can broil the chicken with the vegetables, take out the vegetables when they're done and then finish cooking the chicken.)

Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large sheet pan, lined with foil.

Roast for 40 minutes, until browned, turning once with a spatula. Or broil until browned nicely, about 10 - 12 minutes total, checking every 3 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes, until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.

Pick out the garlic cloves, set aside and add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl. Mix well.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a blender. Put the reserved garlic through a garlic press and add to the dressing ingredients. Blend until smooth and pour enough dressing over the pasta and vegetables to moisten nicely. You can also add half the parsley into the blender for a pretty green flecked dressing.

Add the scallions, nuts and parsley. Check the seasonings and toss with a bit more dressing just before serving. Serve the remainder on the side, if you wish, or keep it for another day. Arrange on a platter. Top with sliced chicken, if using. Serve at room temperature.

That's all she wrote. Enjoy. Gotta go. Guess what I'm making for dinner tonight...

*Another contender includes a recipe from one of my top 5 cookbooks - The Silver Palate Cookbook - and that recipe is...drum roll please... Chicken Marbella. Again, this is a recipe that can be adjusted to what you have on hand. It's lovely for company, quick for family meals AND it is absolutely yummy.

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