Once again, this was a dish inspired by what I had in my garden – the first, still tiny but ready to eat zucchini and some wonderfully fresh peas. (I wish I had grown that gorgeous asparagus, but my garden is too young for harvestable asparagus, which can take up to three years to establish. It is from Q Gardens, who come to my local farmer’s market. They also have a wonderful farm shop in Steventon, near Abingdon in Oxfordshire.)
Orzo is a quick cooking rice shaped pasta with a fantastic flavour and texture that is great for quick and easy meals. On this particular occasion I served it as a side dish, but it would make a great vegetarian main course, particularly if you stirred some chick peas or slivered almonds through it. You can use whatever vegetables you have to hand, and it is a great way to use up leftover vegetables as well. I do like the combination of red onion, zucchini and peas though – it is colourful and the flavours go really well together. Don’t feel you need to use a lot of different vegetables in this – two or three are just fine, and allow the flavour of the orzo to shine through.
To serve four people as a side dish or two as a main course, you need:
1 cup dried orzo
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
1 red onion, peeled, halved and sliced
1 zucchini (courgette), topped, tailed, halved lengthwise and sliced in half moons
½ cup peas (I used fresh, but frozen are fine too)
chopped fresh herbs of your choice (I used basil this time), optional
Heat the oil or melt the butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and stir fry until it is beginning to soften, but has not lost its colour.
Meanwhile, cook the orzo in a large pan of boiling salted water according to package directions. (It normally takes about 5 to 6 minutes.)
Add the zucchini to the onion and continue to stir fry. If using frozen peas, add them with the zucchini, but if you have fresh, hold off a bit. Then, once the orzo is done and the zucchini is softening and going a bit golden, stir in the fresh peas and let them cook for just a couple of minutes until they are tender crisp. (If you were adding chick peas or almonds to make this a main course, now would be the time to do so.)
Drain the orzo and return it to the pan. Add the vegetables to the orzo and stir through lightly. Stir through any herbs and add salt and pepper to taste.