Friday, July 24, 2015

Saffron Orzo with Scallops (or Shrimp or Chicken) and Sugar Snap Peas

I adore orzo.  I love the silky texture and the versatility.  When I think pasta I naturally think Italian: tomato-y or rich alfredo and cheese.  Orzo just opens a whole new path of thinking for me: salads to entrees, summer vegetables or traditional tomato-bases.

This is a great base recipe from which to start.  The original recipe calls for shrimp, but I had some bay scallops in the freezer.  And while sugar snaps and asparagus are standouts in the meal, use what is fresh or what you like.

A word on saffron.  This is the most expensive spice in the world costing between $1600 and $5000/pound.  Not that us home cooks would ever buy a pound, but you can find it in bottles in the spice department (looking on-line I see it in .05 oz or 1-2 gram jars for around $20.....I think I've found it for less for a local market).  A friend had sent me a jar some time ago and I had tried to a few times but frankly, it really didn't rock my boat.  I'm sure there are different levels of quality, but I've also ordered entrees in restaurants and it pretty much tasted the same of what I have on hand.

All that being said, if you have some on hand by all means use it!  This is a great home for it.  However, if you're not willing to dip your toe in the water but still want yellow rice, I'd try turmeric.

The original recipe didn't call for the red peppers, but I really felt it need a pop of color for presentation.


1/2 yellow or sweet onion, chopped
2-3 tsp minced fresh garlic
2 tsp EVOO
1 tsp saffron threads
1 1/2 cups (9 1/2 oz/295 g) orzo
2 1/4 cups (18 fl oz/560 ml) low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 lb (250 g) sugar snap peas, trimmed (I used thawed, frozen sugar snaps)
1/2 lb (250 g) shrimp, peeled, deveined, and cut crosswise into thirds (can substitute bay scallops or chicken cut into bite-sized pieces)
S&P to taste
diced red pepper (cooked or uncooked), optional

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, olive oil, and saffron threads and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Mix in the orzo, then pour in the broth.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is just tender, about 8 minutes.

Add the asparagus and peas and simmer until partially cooked, about 3 minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook until opaque, about 4 minutes (adjust cooking time for chicken).  Season with S&P.  Transfer to warmed serving bowls and serve hot.

Recipe Source: Williams-Sonoma "Fresh & Light" 1998, p. 46

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