Orzo Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Feta, Artichoke Hearts, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

D&D_1854So we had an abundance of feta cheese at the office – it is a long story, but I decided to make something of it. For Easter I thought a pasta salad would be good, but something light and fresh. So here is what I did. Another non-recipe recipe, but there it is.

8 ozs Orzo, al dente
1/2 pound asparagus, blanched until bright green (30 second – 1 minute) and the cooled, cut into 1 inch pieces
16 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and diced, or frozen
1/2 8.5 oz jarred sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut, drained*
2 Tbs minced chives
Feta crumbles from the office – not sure how much, but just make it look good with the color contrast

Vinaigrette –
juice and zest of one lemon
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup minced chives
salt/pepper to taste**

While the orzo is cooking, mix together vinaigrette ingredients in a decent sized serving bowl.  Once orzo is drained, add the hot pasta to the vinaigrette. Let the orzo soak up all that flavor. All that lemon.

Mix in all the other pasta salad ingredients and serve at room temperature.

What could be easier? I am not entirely sure especially since I had it all on hand – thanks work for the feta. Have to take the perks when you get them.

I feel proud of this – I mixed a lot of things together and it really worked.  Thank you Nigella for the vinaigrette recipe.

*I usually use dried tomatoes that I rehydrate in hot water, but this time oil-packed made more sense to me.

** I hate this expression. Do people not really know to taste things and season them with salt and pepper if necessary. Or maybe add more acid with some lemon or vinegar. Now I am being that food person that everyone says I am. Sigh.

Artichoke Bread

This idea kind of combines a couple of other really good ideas. Cheese bread and artichoke dip with some garlic throw in for good measure. This just sounds like dinner to me. That being said, I am sure I could survive on bread and cheese – and maybe some apples and grapes and be a perfectly happy camper.dd_1810

For all the desserts that I bake, they just are not my favorite things. I do it to make the Boy happy and when I have extra to share, I take them to the office or to my local. I am going to make an effort to also start taking treats to the local sheriff’s department and the local fire departments. My only question there is – is that just weird? Will they be suspicious of it? I hope not. Cookies, and baking in general, are just good for me to do and I would like to share.

Last week was a pretty rough week for our LEOs  in Escambia County FL, Santa Rosa County Fl, and Escambia County AL. You probably didn’t hear, but a guy killed two women in Milton, another in Foley and stole her car, and shot a women in Pensacola and then stole her car too. She later died. It was a bit scary because he and his accomplice were seen not too terrible far from my office. I just don’t understand. Who does this? This seems really depressing, but it was that week. Let’s just say we were all hyper aware of our surroundings now.

I am sure artichoke bread will not fix the bad things in the world, but doing something comforting makes life a little better – at least it does for me.

14 ozs artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 scallions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
zest of one lemon
chopped chives
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half horizontally

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix artichokes, scallions, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest, and cheeses, reserving some cheese for the top. Or just add some more, because it is cheese after all

Hollow about 1/2 inch of bread out of both halves of the bread. Spread mixture in the hollow and top with reserved cheese.

Wrap bread loosely in foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese is melty and golden brown.

Source: Closet Cooking


Fusilli with Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan Cream

DD_9096

Pasta with Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan Cream

This is a recipe that calls for things that I have on hand – my favorite kind of recipe. After making it, it is also very easy and quick to make, perfect for the weeknight when you want to make something creamy and homey, but without a lot of fuss. I guess that’s the basis of the kind of cooking I like to do on the weeknights, now, weekends – that’s another story entirely. But for a Wednesday night this was very very good. If you don’t have fusilli on hand, which I didn’t, use any pasta that will hold the sauce better, such as rotini or a ridged pasta like mezzo penne.

Fusilli with Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan Cream

SERVINGS: 4 – 6

  •  2 1/2 cups canned, drained artichoke hearts (two 14-ounce cans), rinsed and cut into halves or quarters
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 pound fusilli
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped chives, scallion tops, or parsley
  • 1 cup heavy cream

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over moderately low heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the cream, salt, pepper, and artichoke hearts. Cook until just heated through, about 3 minutes.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the fusilli until just done, about 13 minutes. Drain the pasta and toss with the cream sauce, Parmesan, and chives.

Source: Food & Wine

21 Jan 2015

Bench Notes: I used two cans of baby artichoke hearts and halved them after rinsing very well and dried them on paper towels. Also used mezze penne because didn’t have enough fusilli, it worked okay, but will use fusilli next time. Used half and half and heavy cream which means it took a little longer to get the sauce to thicken, but it was a lovely cream sauce when it was finished. Added a little lemon zest to serve. Might add a little lemon juice next time and extra black pepper.

This was quick and easy and very tasty. Can’t wait to try it left over for lunch.