Sunny weather is my favorite cooking weather, it is an extra boost of encouragement to get me in the kitchen to experiment.Â Today I located a half empty bag of orzo in the back of the cabinet. Perplexed at first, I quickly looked around the kitchen, and found a couple of “pasilla” peppers on the counter. I place pasilla in quotes because it is technically a dried chili pepper. However, in California, a heart shaped, dark green, and shiny pepper that is about three to six inches in length is called pasilla, when it is really a poblano. The poblano, which is what I used, is a slightly spicy pepper (bonus fact: dried poblano peppers are called ancho chili). When used in cooking, the heat is significantly reduced, to just a mild flavor. The skin is thin, not even close to a bell pepper, so when roasting or cooking, I just keep it on as I like the extra boost of the smoky flavor. So I built the dish around these two ingredients.
Vegetable Orzo with Roasted Poblano Peppers
Ingredients (for two servings):
2 Poblano (sometimes labeled pasilla) peppers
two tablespoons of butter (or olive oil)
half an onion, sliced in medium half moons
1/3 cup of corn kernels (frozen is fine, mine were frozen from earlier this summer)
pinch of salt (~1/4 teaspoon)
1/2 cup of pasta sauce (omit garlic and basil, you want tomato/butter/onion in a watery mixture)
3-4 cups of chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
2 handfuls of orzo (about 4 ounces)
black pepper, freshly ground
a couple of cilantro sprigs (or parsley)
1) Wash and dry the peppers. I roast mine stove top, but you can also place them on a grill, or alternatively in your oven (turn on the broiler and coat with a heat resistant oil, keep turning every 2-3 minutes, until skin is thoroughly blistered all over). I like to take the hot peppers and place them in some aluminum paper for about 10-15 minutes, to sweat, and cool down.
2) Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat, and add the sliced onions. Let the onions sweat a little, about 2-3 minutes (they will become slightly transparent around the outside edges), and then add the corn kernels. Mix everything, add some salt, and leave it alone for 4-5 minutes. The onions will get the slightest caramel color, and the corn will lose its water content from the freezer.
3) Slice the cooled peppers in quarters, remove the step and seeds, and cut into thick (width wide) slices (you can choose to remove the outer skin, I did not). Toss in with the onion and corn, and cook for about 3-4 minutes.
4) Add the pasta sauce, a little at a time, making sure to mix the vegetables after each addition. Cook for 6-8 minutes to reduce some of the water.
5) Add the chicken or vegetable stock, and bring to a boil as if you are cooking pasta – which you are! Once the stock is at a full boil, add the orzo, and reduce heat to medium/medium high. Cook for about 8-9 minutes.
6) Once the orzo is cooked (taste it!), you can reduce the water content by keeping the heat on medium for a few more minutes. I like cooking the pasta with the vegetables because it thickens the remaining sauce, which becomes more like a risotto.
7) When finished, add some freshly ground pepper, and garnish with roughly chopped cilantro or parsley leaves.