Saffron Chermoula Orzo with Shrimp

 

 

Adapted from Chef Nargisse Benkabbou
New York Times, September 2022

Traditionally used to season seafood and vegetables, chermoula is a Moroccan marinade made of herbs and spices like cilantro, parsley, paprika and cumin. In this recipe, the orzo cooks in a combination of chermoula and stock, so the orzo is seasoned all the way through. In the last few minutes of cooking, just stir the shrimp into the orzo to cook, and you have a quick and easy, yet exciting, dinner. Feel free to use a protein of your choice instead of shrimp, but adjust cook times accordingly. Also, consider making a big batch of chermoula and keep it in the fridge to use as a marinade, a dressing on salads or a condiment for sandwiches.

Serves 4

Ingredients

For the Chermoula:
2 lemons
1 cup finely chopped cilantro
1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
¼ cup  Moroccan olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon granulated sugar

For the Orzo and Shrimp:
1/4 teaspoon good quality saffron threads
1/4 cup hot water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup orzo
1½ cups chicken stock
¾ pound peeled and deveined medium to large shrimp, tails removed

Directions:
Take one half of the 1/4 tsp saffron threads and put them in a spice mortar. Grind the spice with a pestle to a powdery consistency. Add a second pinch of saffron threads to the mortar. Do not crush these threads.
Ground saffron threads in a mortar and pestle.

Pour 1/4 cup of hot water into the mortar. Set aside and let the saffron soak for 5 minutes. This will open up the flavor of the spice.

To Make the chermoula: Finely grate the zest from both lemons and set aside for serving, then, into a medium bowl, squeeze 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Stir in the cilantro, parsley, olive oil, garlic, paprika, cumin, salt and sugar and set aside until ready to use. (You can keep the chermoula in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 5 days.)

Prepare the orzo and shrimp: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large pot over medium-high until the butter is melted. Add the orzo and keep stirring until the orzo is lightly golden, about 3 minutes. Pour the yellow saffron liquid evenly across the top of the orzo.

Add in the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until orzo starts to soften, about 10 minutes. If it looks like the orzo is too dry, add a couple of tablespoons of water to the pan.

Cover the pot again until the orzo is cooked through and most of the liquid has evaporated, 4 to 6 minutes more. Turn off heat. Gently stir in the chermoula and shrimp. Stir, cover, let stand 3 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and lemon juice if necessary.

Serve immediately, topped with the grated lemon zest.

Notes:

Moroccan olive oil has all of the health benefits of Italian, Greek, Spanish, Californian, and all other olive oils, including potential advantages for heart and brain health and cancer prevention. Made in the unique terroir surrounding the Atlas Mountains, Moroccan olive oil has a flavor all its own.  Once you have some Moroccan olive oil in your pantry, it’s a perfect time to delve into the delicious world of Moroccan cuisine. Try making some salads, a tagine, or a sweet and savory olive oil cake.

Shrimp needs only 2-3 minutes @ 185°F  to be perfectly cooked. Any time longer than that, you will get a rubbery protein.

Fresh herbs lose color  and  flavor when cooked.  In this recipe, they are best  when added at the end of the cooking time.


Sausage Ricotta Meatball Bake

 

Serves 4 to 6

 

Ingredients:

For the Sausage Ricotta Meatballs

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground black pepper ‘

1-pound ground Italian pork sausage

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

 

For the Basil Pomodoro Sauce

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 small yellow onion, finely diced

4 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

One 28-ounce can Italian crushed tomatoes

1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

8 ounces mozzarella cheese, grated

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated  

 

Directions:

To prepare the meatballs, preheat the oven to 400° F. Add the breadcrumbs to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse until finely ground. Place breadcrumbs in a large mixing bowl. Add the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, parsley, fennel, oregano and pepper and stir to combine.

Add the sausage meat and gently stir again. Form meat into roughly 2-inch meatballs and place in a 10” cast iron skillet.

Bake in preheated oven until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove meatballs from the skillet and set aside on a plate. Let skillet cool for about 5 minutes and leave oven on.

For the sauce, return the skillet to medium heat and add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Turn heat down to low and add the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook just until garlic is fragrant and nutty but not browning, about 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes to the skillet and stir. Bring the sauce to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook until sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the basil and sugar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the meatballs back to the skillet and stir to coat with the sauce. Top the meatballs with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and place the preheated oven. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 10 minutes.

 

Cook’s Notes:

Short Cuts

For a quick and easy way to make this dish, use frozen meatballs of your choice and cook according to the package directions. Set aside.

Add one  28-ounce jar of prepared  marinara or spaghetti sauce to a 10″ cast iron skillet and heat over medium high heat. Stir in crushed red pepper flakes and fennel seeds. Reduce heat to medium low and bring the sauce to a simmer. Cook until sauce is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Add the basil and sugar, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the meatballs to the skillet and stir to coat with the sauce. Top the meatballs with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheese and place in a 400 F preheated oven. Bake until cheese is melted and bubbling, about 10 minutes.

 

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Caramelized Lemongrass Pork with Vermicelli Noodles

   

Lemongrass is a bright aromatic herb with a subtle citrus flavor native to India and tropical Asia. Here it, was used in a Thai-Vietnamese inspired dish to marinate pork giving it a lemony zingy taste. The stir fried pork was then served with a light salad of rice vermicelli (extra thin noodles), cucumber and carrot with mint and cilantro.

 

 

Serves 2

Ingredients:

1 stalk lemongrass

1 shallot

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup (50 ml) fish sauce

2 – 3 teaspoons soy sauce  

2 tablespoons  brown sugar

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

12 ounces (360 grams) pork tenderloin or Two 4 oz Boneless Center Cut Pork Loin Chop, thinly sliced

8 ounces (240 grams) rice vermicelli noodles

Salt, to taste

6 cups (1L)  water

1/2  English cucumber

1 small bunch of mint

1 small bunch of cilantro

2 carrots

 

 

Directions:

To  Make Marinade

Rinse all fresh produce. Trim and discard lemongrass root and outer layer. Thinly slice stalk. Peel shallot and mince. Mince garlic. In a large resealable plastic bag (or a bowl), combine lemongrass, shallot, garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil.  If using a pork tenderloin, remove from the packaging and  rinse pork  with water and pat dry with paper towel. Cut crosswise into  1/2 inch (0.5cm) slices. Add pork to marinade in bag and shake to coat. Set aside to marinate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes or overnight in fridge.  

 

To Cook the  Vermicelli

Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a medium pot (or kettle) over high heat. Place vermicelli in a large bowl and pour over boiling water. Soak until tender, about 6 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold water for 30 seconds. Set aside in a large bowl.  

 

Preparing  the Vegetables

Cut cucumber lengthwise into 1/2 inch ( 0.5cm ) slices, then juilienne each slice. Peel the carrots and cut lengthwise into  1/2 inch ( 0.5cm ) slices, then juilienne  Pick mint leaves discarding stems. Pick cilantro leaves discarding stems.  

 

To Cook the Pork

Heat 1 teaspoon vegetable oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Remove pork from marinade, allowing excess to drip off and reserving marinade. When oil is shimmering, add pork, season lightly with salt, and cook until browned on bottom, 1 minute. Flip, season with salt, and add marinade to pan. Cook until pork is cooked through, 1 minute more.  

 

Season Vermicelli

Add cucumbers and shredded carrots to vermicelli in bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt.  

 

To Plate the Dish

Divide vermicelli and vegetables evenly between 2 bowls. Top with pork, spooning over sauce from pan. Garnish with mint and cilantro. Enjoy!  

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All photographs and content, excepted where noted, are copyright protected. Please do not use these photos without prior written permission. If you wish to republish this photograph and all other contents, then we kindly ask that you link back to this site. We are eternally grateful and we appreciate your support of this blog.

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