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Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes

May 24, 2012


Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and RadishesPin it!

After making my first risotto last month, I was inspired to also make my first orzo. I like pasta, but it was unappealing to me to boil the dense grain-like orzo granules in water and drain them, pasta-style. Instead I chose a super tasty-sounding variation from a Cook’s Illustrated cookbook* that I had sitting around: Toasted Orzo!

Toasting the orzo for Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes

First you toast the orzo in butter until it’s just started to brown… Sounding tasty yet? Then you pour in chicken or vegetable broth (and white wine), and cook it, risotto-style. Only it’s so much easier than risotto! No constant stirring! Just a little stirring here and there.

Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes

All of that free time (10-12 minutes) while I wasn’t stirring the orzo, allowed me to clean up a little while cooking (my favorite OCD habit), and slice the radishes.

Ingredients for Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes

Yes, radishes. Do radishes mixed in with kale and lemon sound strange? The idea occurred to me because 1) I had radishes in the fridge to use up, and 2) This recipe starts out with quite a bit of butter, and butter helps to mellow the spicy pungency of radishes. In fact, butter makes radishes taste mild yet still crispy and refreshing.

Ingredients for Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes

The lemon gave it a brightness of flavor, and the radishes added a nice crunch and color to the dish. The kale added… kale (need I say more?). And I rounded it all out with a little crumbled feta cheese on top, making it seem a little more Greek, and a little less like the spontaneous random combination it was.

This crazy last-minute kitchen experiment turned out to have “favorite in the weekday menu rotation” written all over it!

Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and RadishesPin it!

* In the spirit of full confession, I acquired my Cook’s Illustrated “The Best Skillet Recipes” cookbook for free, while dumpster diving. And perhaps more to the point, the “Toasted Orzo” variations in this cookbook, which I deviated from completely, include: with peas and parmesan; with fennel, olives and cilantro; and with bacon, scallions, and peas.

Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes

Print this recipe. (PDF)


Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes
Based on a recipe for Toasted Orzo in: The Best Skillet Recipes (by Cook’s Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen).

(Serves 5-6)

~ 1¼ cups dry orzo
~ ½ bunch kale (around 5 oz.), stems removed and roughly chopped
~ 1 lemon (zest and juice)
~ 6-7 radishes, thinly sliced in half-moons
~ 2 cups chicken broth, or vegetable stock
~ 2 Tbsp. butter
~ 2 cloves garlic, minced
~ 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
~ 6-7 Tbsp. feta cheese, crumbled
~ ⅓ cup dry white wine
~ substitute spinach for kale (no need for olive oil; steams in less time)
~ salt and pepper to taste (but I didn’t use any!)

How to make it:

1. Make the kale: Heat the olive oil in a medium pot. Rinse the chopped kale, but don’t bother patting it dry; transfer the kale to the pot, still coated in a little bit of water (to steam the kale leaves), or if using pre-washed kale, add about ¼ cup of water. Stir to coat the kale with olive oil, then lower the heat and place the lid on the pot. Steam for 10 minutes, covered, stirring once or twice total, then remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet, or cast iron pan, heat the butter over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the minced garlic and sauté, stirring, for 30 seconds, before adding the orzo.

Sauteeing garlic for Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and RadishesToasting the orzo for Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes

3. Stir to coat the orzo in butter, and continue toasting the orzo over medium heat, stirring continuously, for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, or once some of the orzo has started to brown, pour in the chicken broth (and optionally, white wine). (Be careful of steam it will create.) Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat back to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10-12 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

Making Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and RadishesToasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and Radishes

4. Stir in the cooked kale, then remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice and zest, and mix well. Then, gently stir in the radishes.

5. Serve warm in individual bowls with crumbled feta cheese sprinkled on top.

Print this recipe! (PDF)

Toasted Orzo with Kale, Feta, and RadishesPin it!

19 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2012 9:22 am

    Cooks Illustrated has a great no-stir risotto recipe. I’ll see if I can track down the recipe.

    • May 24, 2012 12:39 pm

      Really? Hm… I should look for it, too. I have a few America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks, and it might be in those somewhere…

  2. May 24, 2012 11:05 am

    I’ve never used orzo, I can’t find it here. Perhaps it’ll be about somewhere. Anyway, this looks really nice :)

  3. May 25, 2012 6:43 am

    I’m loving all the bright, summery dishes that are popping up everywhere now! Post-surgery (and possibly foreverrr) I cannot eat really heavy, fatty foods. I’m bookmarking recipes like this so I know I still have extremely tasty options!

    • May 25, 2012 11:25 am

      Yes, this is a super tasty option! And you can always use olive oil at the beginning instead of butter, if that works better for you. (Or skip the pan-frying altogether, and boil the orzo in water first, according to package directions.) Still a random & yummy flavor combination : )

  4. May 28, 2012 8:36 pm

    This really looks wonderful. So hearty and healthy.

  5. August 16, 2012 3:45 am

    Oh my god, salivating while reading this, it just looks fab! Risotto-style orzo sounds really interesting. I’ve some radishes in the garden; as soon as they are ready I’m going to be making this!

    • August 16, 2012 10:09 am

      Lucky you! I wish I had a yard for a garden. I mostly like eating radishes just as a snack, especially on top of fresh bread with butter and salt, but this dish is pretty great. (And I can’t see myself ever making non-risotto-style orzo and just boiling it now, since I’d– irrationally– worry that the orzo would get too watery/mushy…)

  6. Lauren permalink
    September 30, 2012 6:17 pm

    Yum. I made this, but added chicken & a radish leaf pesto ( Even my husband liked it.

    • October 1, 2012 9:15 am

      Oh yum, that sounds like a wonderful way to use both the radish roots and leaves in one dish! I’ve never tried radish leaf pesto, but the next time I find some radishes whose leaves are still in good shape, I’ll give it a try. :)


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