Ina Garten is my hero! Everything I've made of hers has been fantastic and this dish just hammers home that point. I first saw this on Live.Love.Eat., and it looked so fresh and so good. Although it's great for summer, I thought it would be a nice year-round dish. My lab had a holiday potluck lunch and, in addition to the Buche de Noel, I wanted to bring a meatless option for a vegetarian graduate student in the lab (and for my poultry-only self!) This dish was perfect! The awesome roasted vegetable flavors, the tender orzo, the light dressing, the fresh basil - SO SO SO good. I made it the night before and it was perfect - any dish that can be made in advance is a plus in my book.
Last month I was dabbling a bit in reducing my dairy intake, and in the process visited a few vegan cooking blogs, so I'm more aware of vegan dishes. I realized that I am not prepared to give up my precious dairy, but I'm conscious of when I eat it and whether it's absolutely necessary in the dishes I prepare. I actually thought the feta cheese was a little much for this - I may have preferred it without. Don't get me wrong, it does add an interesting flavor and creaminess, but I think this would still be an outstanding dish without it. If any of you out there are vegan or vegetarian, or cooking for someone who is, I highly recommend this dish!
Roasted Vegetable Orzo
1 small eggplant, peeled and diced into 3/4-inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow (or orange) bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/3 cup good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound (8 ounces - dry) orzo pasta
For the dressing:
1/3 cup good olive oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
freshly ground black pepper
pine nuts (I omitted)
15 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Preheat oven to 425F.
1. Toss the eggplant, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper on a large baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes, or until browned, turning once with a spatula.
2. Meanwhile, cook orzo in boiling salted water for 7 to 9 minutes (according to package directions), until tender. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl.
3. Add roasted vegetables to the orzo, scraping all the liquid and seasoning from the roasting pan into the pasta bowl.
4. For the dressing, combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper, and pour on orzo/vegetable mixture. Cool to room temperature.
5. Add the scallions, feta, pine nuts, and basil, if using. Check the seasonings and adjust with salt and pepper if necessary (not necessary for my taste). Serve at room temperature.
Makes 6 servings.