The unseasonably chilly nights on the North Fork feel like Fall to me, and signal me to start using the herbs in my garden before November. The mounds of Greek Oregano, the rifts of Thyme and Sage, the bright blue flowers of my Borage plants; these need to be consumed before they surrender to the colder months, so I begin a plan to use them all. Fresh-herbed orzo, pesto of all kinds, herb salads with leaves of parsley and celery plants, garnished with petals of Borage, Sage blossoms, and sprigs of wild fennel–all these are recipes that bring your garden straight to your table. This weekend, try this recipe for herbed orzo using a generous helping of any one or more herbs from your garden. As a side dish, it’s a great addition to any meal, pot luck, or picnic.
2 cups water, vegetable, or chicken stock
2 cups orzo
Few threads of saffron
1 tbsp. olive oil from Vines and Branches
1 tbsp. parsley or cilantro
1 tbsp. fresh basil, rolled and sliced “chiffonade”
1 tbsp. of chopped dill or fennel sprigs
1 tbsp. of celery leaves, rolled and sliced “chiffonade”
1 tbsp. chopped red onion, scallion, chives or ramps
½ cup shredded carrot from Harbes Family Farm
½ cup shredded zucchini or summer squash from Sang Lee Farms
Sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese or crumbled feta cheese
Pine nuts or favorite nuts
North Fork Sea Salt to taste
Fresh ground pepper or red pepper flakes to taste
Bring two cups of liquid, (water, vegetable, or chicken stock), to boil. Add two cups orzo. It will be tempting to add more liquid, but don’t–your orzo will be mushy. Add three to four threads of saffron and salt to taste. Add one tablespoon of olive oil and stir, before turning down flame and covering. Let simmer for 5 minutes and turn off flame without removing lid. This will provide sufficient moisture to finish cooking the orzo without burning it. After 10 minutes, fluff the orzo with a fork and empty on to cookie sheet to cool.
Select your fresh herbs of choice-any of the above will do, but feel free to experiment with your favorites. Add a tablespoon of chopped red onion or chopped scallions, and mix all of these in a large bowl and refrigerate. Next, grate one-half cup of fresh carrots and one half-cup of chopped zucchini or summer squash. When the orzo is cooled, toss with the herb-veggie mixture and taste for salt. You may want to add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil along with your favorite chopped nuts or toasted pine nuts and olives. Sprinkle with Parmesan or crumbled feta cheese before serving and savor your garden!
This pairs perfectly with a lusty Cabernet Franc from Kontokosta Winery. I call this the “Red Velvet” Cab Franc–with enough structure to stand up to all the herbs and salty cheese in this orzo, when you open this bottle of wine, you can be sure that everyone will want “another slice please”!