So today, 31 years ago, my lovely husband was born. I could go on and on about what he means to me but, it would embarrass him. So, I will just say he is amazing and I am beyond grateful of his existence. I will be forever in the debt to his Mom. Happy Birthday Thomas!
His Mom, like mine, was an amazing home chef. Their cooking styles were very different but both amazing. Cissy, Thomas’ Mom, was a true soul food loving, add some sugar, and use that pork fat, South Carolina girl. Mine was more: start every meal with olive oil, garlic, and mirepoix (celery, onions, carrots). They shared one key foodie thing they could both rock a gravy. I mean seriously, they both understood the power of a strong roux.
Here’s where I run into a problem. I see the word flour in a non-baking recipe and my palms start sweating. Everything I find comforting about cooking goes out the window and I am back in a science lab. Don’t get me wrong, I love science. As my nephew’s Luca and Julian would point out to me in song, “science is real” (if you don’t know this reference, do yourself a favor and check it out). My problem is it becomes too real in the kitchen. I have to know what to do when it all inevitably clumps up, or becomes a gross paste, or I let it prematurely brown. Seriously, this is the stuff of nightmares. Okay so, not really, I have had and lived through real nightmares…I just have a flare for the dramatic. Well, in true Mom teaching fashion, I had to work through this fear in this recipe. Here goes:
FOR THE PASTA
1 cup orzo pasta
water, for boiling pasta (if you needed me to tell you this you might want to get someone to help you with the rest of the recipe) 😉
FOR THE ALFREDO SAUCE
3 tablespoons olive oil (one of our favorites is California Olive Ranch)
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup vegetable broth
½ cup grated parmesan cheese (the real stuff is best)
½ cup plain, nonfat yogurt (I used Grassmilk Organic Whole Milk Yogurt)
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
FOR THE SPINACH AND ARTICHOKES MIXTURE
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced
⅛ teaspoon salt
1 bag (6 to 8 ounces) spinach leaves
1 jar or can (14-ounces) quartered artichokes (I should have used Trader Joe’s Artichokes, I didn’t, but I should have)
½ cup shredded Italian-blend cheeses, for topping (optional, I did not use this, I didn’t think it was necessary but, more cheese is rarely a bad idea)
Preheat oven to 350.
Lightly grease casserole dish with cooking spray and set aside.(I loved having a reason to use my mother in law’s vintage Pyrex)
Cook orzo according to the directions on the box; drain and set aside.
Make The Sauce (face that fear)
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.
Add garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
Stir in flour; stir until combined.
Slowly whisk in vegetable broth.
Cook and whisk until mixture boils and thickens; remove from heat.
Stir in Parmesan cheese; stir until melted.
Whisk in yogurt; whisk until combined.
Season with salt and pepper.
Sauce will continue to thicken as it stands. If sauce is too thick, add a little water. (this saved me!!) Set aside.
Make the Spinach and Artichokes
Heat olive oil in a frying pan.
Add onions and salt; cook for 2 minutes, or until just tender.
Add spinach and cook for 2 more minutes, or until wilted.
Stir in artichokes and continue to cook for 1 more minute.
Add orzo to the skillet.
Stir in prepared sauce.
Remove from heat and transfer to previously prepared casserole dish.
Sprinkle the top with shredded cheese.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until top is lightly browned.
Remove from oven and let stand 10 minutes.
Here’s what my process looked in badly lit iphone pics (after all I do have a reputation to protect):
Well folks…I did it. And, so can you.
Someone very smart once said, “life begins at the end of your comfort zone”. I must really be living now a days…<3
Oh and the real pictures (beautiful family and wedding pictures ) were captured by the amazingly talented Ali Harpe Photography she is amazing.