Monday, September 10, 2012

Orzotto with Ripe Tomatoes, Bacon, and Red Wine

I am not fanatically obsessed with bacon.

Watch. I will talk about other things. Spinach. Mushrooms. Tomato. Bac....bacalao. Yes. As in the Spanish fish. And bac...ardi. See? Lots of other things on my mind.

This recipe just happens to have bacon in it. Incidentally. A casual observer might not even notice it. Until they, you know, tasted its rich bacony wonderful goodness.

Despite the depths of bacony flavor here, there's actually very little bacon per serving, and tons of whole grains and vegetables. And the entire thing is a cinch to throw together, if you're cooking for two. (A recent reprise for four reminded me that doubling recipes is often trickier than I expect, because it's not just the ingredient numbers that change but also the cooking times. Double the orzo here, and you have to make sure to stir it a couple times so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot while it cooks and extend the cooking time by a minute or so. Double the tomatoes, and suddenly a pan that had very little liquid and could boil off a slosh of wine in 10 seconds gets a little soupy. The solution? Keep an eye on the depth of your ingredients...if you're doubling a recipe that calls for sauteing, it's good to also use a wider pan so the ingredients don't get too crowded. And, stay flexible. If something is soupy, you can always boil off a little liquid to fix it. If something isn't cooking evenly, give it a stir from time to time. And when in doubt, reassure yourself that it really doesn't matter if something is overcooked or undercooked or soupy...all anyone will notice once they start eating is the awesomeness of the bacon.)

1 1/4 cups broth
1 rounded cup whole wheat orzo
3 oz frozen spinach, microwaved for 2 minutes and drained
Olive oil
1 strip Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon, sliced into strips
(you can substitute another kind of bacon, but you'll probably need to use twice as much and it still won't taste as roundly delicious.)
1 small to medium-sized shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Several ripe, fragrant tomatoes, cut into chunks
Lots of basil (to taste), chiffonade or chopped
Slosh or two red wine
About 2 oz grated Parmesan cheese
Freshly ground black pepper

Sprinkle the tomatoes lightly with salt and let sit while you start cooking, to bring out the flavor.

In a smallish pot, bring the broth to boil. Add the orzo and stir once, then cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 9 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a wide nonstick pan over medium heat. When hot, add the bacon and cook for 2-3 minutes until it starts to turn lightly golden in a couple places. Add a little olive oil, the shallot and garlic, and a pinch of salt, and saute for a minute or two more until the shallot softens. Add the spinach, using two spoons or spatulas to separate clumps if needed, then add the tomato and saute for a minute till just warmed through. Toss in the basil and a slosh or two of red wine. Stir, let simmer for a minute more, then turn off the heat.

Fold the orzo into the tomato mixture, stir in the Parmesan, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper. Serve hot.

Serves 2.

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