My vegetable garden got off to a late start this year because I was in India during the spring when I'd have normally started working on it. As a result, it is only in the past couple of weeks that I have been able to start picking some deliciously ripe cherry tomatoes from my plants (the ones that the squirrels and birds miss, that is).
Growing cherry tomatoes is gratifying because the plants produce so much fruit. I take a cupful of these grape-sweet beauties to eat with my lunch almost every day now. And I am always trying to find ways to add them to the recipes I cook.
Last night, with not much time left on hand after walking the dogs and running a couple of errands, I debated between ordering out and throwing something together that would take me less than half an hour. Eating in won, and that was because I knew I had on hand some orzo pasta and a basketful of just-picked cherry tomatoes that could be rustled together into a tasty and nutritious meal.
Orzo is one of Desi's favorite pastas, because, I suspect, it looks a lot like rice which is his favorite food in the world. It is also quick-cooking because of its tiny size -- a boon for the busy cook.
The pasta sauce is extra simple but also extra flavorful: extra virgin olive oil, tons of garlic and pepper. The cherry tomatoes and a handful of fresh basil, also from my garden, provide even more flavor and freshness.
I had on hand some vegan mozzarella from Vegan Gourmet that I picked up last week. It was so creamy and delicious, I had to read the label again to make sure they hadn't sneaked in the real thing on me. Since basil, tomatoes and mozzarella are a match made in tastebud heaven, I diced up the mozzarella and added it to the pasta.
I've basically already given you the recipe above, but let me go through it step by step. Trust me, if you try it, you'll be hooked.
Garlicky Orzo With Cherry Tomatoes
1 pound orzo
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp ground black pepper
8-10 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
A couple of handfuls of fresh basil leaves, cut into strips or just torn by hand
About half of an 8-oz package of vegan mozzarella cheese, cubed (add more if you like!)
Salt to taste
Cook the orzo al dente according to package instructions and drain.
Heat the olive oil in a wide saucepan.
Add the garlic slices and stir for about a minute until they are just very lightly brown. Do not burn them!
Add the black pepper and stir for a few seconds, then add the orzo. Stir it well to coat with the flavored oil.
Turn off the heat and add the cherry tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Salt to taste. Toss and serve immediately!
It's as simple as that.