Orzo with Caramelized Fall Vegetables and Ginger

Orzo with Caramelized Fall Vegetables and Ginger
Orzo with Caramelized Fall Vegetables and Ginger

Found on the website, thekitchn.com, this recipe is colorful and delicious, even if it takes a bit of chopping and stir-frying.  The dish is built from the ground up in one big skillet, browning, caramelizing, and sautéeing until you’re left with a big pile of chewy orzo and dark, delicious fall vegetables.  (Use your biggest stove burner, and your biggest sauté pan!)  The recipe serves 4 as a main dish and 6 as a side dish.

Ingredients:
Salt
½ pound orzo pasta
Grapeseed, peanut, or vegetable oil
1 large sweet potato (about ¾ pound)
2 medium onions (about 1 pound), finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3-inch piece fresh ginger — peeled and grated, about 1 Tablespoon
6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps diced (cremini are fine, too)
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
3 big leaves chard or kale, stalks removed and leaves finely chopped, about 2 cups
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan (optional)

Procedure:

Heat a large pot of water to boiling and salt it generously. Cook orzo until barely al dente, 6 to 7 minutes. Drain and toss with a generous drizzle of oil so that the grains of orzo are lightly coated with oil. Set aside.

Peel and dice sweet potato into cubes about ¼ to ½ inch to a side. Heat a large sauté or frying pan (you want lots of room and hot surface) over high heat. Drizzle in a little oil (not olive oil — you want an oil with a high smoke point) and heat until very hot. Add sweet potatoes and arrange them in one layer. Cook over high heat until beginning to caramelize and turn brown — about 4 minutes. Flip them over and cook for another 3 minutes or so.

Turn heat down to medium and push sweet potatoes up in a pile against one side of the pan. Add diced onions to center of pan and sprinkle them lightly with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to turn brown. Add minced garlic and grated ginger and stir into the onions. Push the onions off to the side of the pan, next to the sweet potatoes, where they will continue to caramelize.

Add the diced mushrooms to the hot center of the pan and cook them for 4 minutes without turning. Then flip, stir, and cook for another 4 minutes.

At this point everything should be getting well -cooked; the onions should be quite dark brown and the garlic should be golden and soft. The potatoes should be softening.

Whisk together vinegar, soy sauce, and 2 Tablespoons of oil. Pour into the pan with the vegetables and mix everything together, scraping the bottom as you go. Cook all the elements together for about 3 minutes on medium heat. Then turn the heat up to high.

Add the orzo gradually, shaking in a cup at a time, stirring and scraping constantly. Cook the orzo over high heat with the rest of the vegetables for about 5 minutes, letting the orzo get browned on the bottom of the pan, then scraping it up. You are developing a little more color and flavor on the pasta, and helping all the flavors combine.

Finally, toss the chopped greens into the mix and cook for 1 more minute or until the greens are barely wilted. Turn off heat and taste. Add salt and pepper if needed. Serve hot, with shavings of Parmesan if desired.

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