Friday, November 2, 2012

Greek Shrimp and Orzo

The weather has definitely turned to fall lately, mostly on on the cloudy, rainy and cold side.  Personally I'd rather be lounging on a Greek Island so it's time to make this Greek Shrimp and Orzo dish and pretend.  I first made this dish many years ago when my friend Susie came over for dinner.  The reason I still remember it is because Mike the Irish Wolfhound was laying between the kitchen and dining room and Susie had to step over him.  If you're not familiar with Irish Wolfhounds, they're the tallest dog breed in the world.  Mike weighed 160 pounds and measured 8 feet from nose to tail.  Just as Susie started to step over him, Mikey decided to stand up and Susie kind of ended up riding him around the kitchen.  Pretty amusing.  Anyway, it made the evening stand out in my memory, including the fabulous baked shrimp dish.  I'm pretty sure Susie still remembers that night also. 

I have a rating system for recipes from 1 to 5 stars and never keep anything rated less than 4.5 stars (yes, I give half stars in a pinch).  My note from that night on the recipe is not only 5 stars, but I also added the comment "very excellent". Any time I add a comment like that it means I wish I could have given it even more stars.  If you like Greek food you really should try it.  Not familiar with orzo?  It's actually a small pasta shaped like rice and it's quite common in Greek cooking.  You'll find it with the other pastas in the grocery aisle.

What makes this dish great is the combination of tender shrimp, rich tomatoes, salty feta and meaty olives.  It's easy to make and it's great for entertaining or for a family meal.  It serves four so double the recipe for entertaining.  Well, unless your entertaining involves four people, of course.  :-)  Go easy on the salt because feta and kalamata olives are both salty - you can always add more at the table.

Making this dinner was a great excuse to go out and buy a pretty new gratin baking dish, which I've wanted for some time.  I debated over the color and finally chose red over blue, only to figure out that you can't even see the color in the pictures because it's only on the outside of the dish.  But I still like it, especially the oval shape.  If you don't happen to have a cool oval baking dish, just use whatever baking dish you have on hand.

click here for a printable recipe

Greek Shrimp and Orzo
Serves 4

½ medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ dry white wine
1 (14-15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ lb large shrimp, shelled and deveined
8 ounces dried orzo (pasta)
1/3 cup kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
8 ounces feta, patted dry and crumbled
Lemon wedges for garnish

Preheat oven to 425d.

Cook onion, garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes in 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy pot over moderately high heat, stirring until onion is softened, about 3 minutes.  Add wine and boil until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.  Stir in tomatoes and salt, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes.  Stir shrimp into sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are barely cooked through, about 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook orzo in a pot of boiling water according to package directions. Reserve ¼ cup cooking water, then drain orzo in a sieve.  Return orzo to the pot and toss with remaining tablespoon olive oil.  Stir in sauce with shrimp and reserved cooking water, then add olives and salt and pepper to taste.

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray (or use oil).  Spoon half of the pasta into the dish, then sprinkle with half of feta.  Top with remaining pasta and feta, then bake uncovered in the middle of the oven for approximately 15 minutes until the pasta is heated through and the cheese is slightly melted.

Garnish each serving with a lemon wedge.

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