Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Greek tilapia with feta tomato orzo

I was all set to write about the abundant sunshine we've been enjoying and this bright and fresh recipe.  But, it seems like Mother Nature is trying to foil my plan by soaking much of the East Coast with rain.  Luckily, this dish will brighten up your next mealtime, rain or shine.

With the official comfort food months of fall and winter are long behind us, we've been enjoying less oven-bound casseroles and heavy pasta dishes in favor of grilled meats, market fresh vegetables and salads of spring and summer. 

But, as the mercury rises, so increases my will to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.  I usually reserve Saturday mornings for running, but I've been getting the itch to pound the pavement more often and also earlier in the week.  Matt has always raved about post-sunset summer runs as being the best, so I decided to give it a go last week.  Gone are the scorching sun, humidity, and crowded city of the daytime.  When I head out around 8:45, I'm welcomed by warm summer air, a light cool breeze, and empty sidewalks.  Perfection!

These new nighttime runs have added an entirely new aspect to my workout routine.  I'm still doing some light cardio and lifting after work and heading home to make dinner.  I'll putz around for a few hours before lacing up and heading outside for a quick 3 miles.  Long enough to work up a sweat but short enough that I can still shower and be in bed by 10.  Grandma needs her sleep, after all :)

All of this rambling about exercise is really my long-winded way of saying more activity requires more energy!  Since a pile of spaghetti and meatballs isn't the most appealing thing in 80 degree heat, I've had to find a new carbohydrate to fuel my body.  If you aren't familiar with it, let me be the first to introduce you to orzo.

Isn't it just the cutest little thing?  Orzo is simply rice-shaped pasta.  It's cooked exactly like any other pasta (and much faster than rice) in water, broth, or any sauce of choice.  I love its small size because it can be cooked in a small saucepan or even skillet.  Once done, it's fluffy and plump, having absorbed the flavors of whatever other ingredients are keeping it company.  It's the perfect pasta for summertime dishes, delicious warm or cool, straight out of the fridge.

For this recipe, the orzo was cooked in diced tomatoes and their juice (with a bit of water added), then folded with salty feta cheese that melted juuuuust enough to add a bit of creaminess to the pasta.  I topped a healthy serving of the orzo with flaky tilapia seasoned to the nines with oregano, salt, pepper, and a few squeezes of fresh lemon juice.  So fresh, you guys!  I felt like I could've closed my eyes and, if I wished hard enough, opened them to the crystal clear waters surrounding Greece.  (If only, right?!)

Satisfying and stick-to-your-ribs hearty but light enough for summer and endless activity!  I can't believe it took me this long to try orzo in my very own kitchen.  Good things come to those who wait, be it a new favorite pasta shape or an open road and a cool breeze on a moonlit jog.  ...or a trip to Greece.  Just sayin'.

Two years ago: Classic French onion soup

Greek Tilapia with Tomato Feta Orzo
(an original recipe!)
-serves 2

A few notes: This recipe would work well if you substituted another kind of fish or even a lean chicken breast.  Plus, the orzo tastes just as great cool as it does hot -- would be a great cool side dish at a picnic tossed with some fresh chopped parsley and maybe some olives for extra flavor.

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup uncooked orzo pasta
2 (6-ounce) pieces of tilapia
Dried oregano
1 lemon, 2 slices remove and the remaining left to juice
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Ground black pepper

In a large saute pan over medium heat, add oil and garlic, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes and juice plus one can of water to pan, stirring to combine.  Bring to a simmer.  Add orzo and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally so that pasta doesn't stick to bottom of pan, until orzo is al dente.

While pasta is cooking, preheat grill pan to medium high.  Squeeze juice of lemon halves over both sides of tilapia fillets, then season each side liberally with salt, pepper, and oregano.  Place fish on grill pan and cook until opaque, roughly 4 minutes per side. Remove from heat.

When pasta is cooked, remove from heat and stir.  Fold in feta and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Divide orzo tomato mixture between two plates and top each with a fillet of tilapia and slice of lemon.  Enjoy immediately!

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