Last week we quickly harvested the last of our summer garden just before the night temperatures plunged into the 30s. We had baskets full of fresh basil to process and share with friends. I chopped and froze a bunch of tomatoes, threw several in this dish, and our kitchen counters are still completely covered with more ripening tomatoes. With that much basil and all those tomatoes, I needed to do something with them, and fast. This easy recipe from the latest issue of Cooking Light hit the spot and was a hit with all my guys. It’s simply skillet cooked chicken cooked with orzo, tomatoes, spinach, and cheese.
This is a great recipe for improvisation and just using whatever you have in the frig. I didn’t have spinach as the recipe called for, so I used small peas instead. And since we have a large stash of our homegrown slow-roasted tomatoes, I used those instead of canned tomato paste, as well as some of the oil in which they are kept, which added an earthy flavor.
Whole wheat orzo is a great substitute if your local grocery store carries it. The original recipe calls for Feta cheese, which also tastes delicious with the basil and orzo.
SKILLET CHICKEN WITH ORZO AND TOMATOES
Adapted from Cooking Light.
4-quart pot with lid
5-quart nonstick skillet
10 cups (2-1/2 quarts/~2 liters) water
16 ounces (454 g) uncooked orzo
1-1/2 pounds (681 g) boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size cubes
4 cups (700 g) chopped Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup slow-roasted tomatoes (or 3 teaspoons tomato paste)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
5 or 6 grinds of black peppercorns
3 cups (330 g) baby peas (or spinach)
20 fresh basil leaves
sprinkle of Parmesan cheese
1. In the 4-quart pot, bring the water to a boil and cook the orzo according to the package directions, just until al dente. Do not overcook or it will be mushy. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid, and keep warm.
2. While the orzo cooks, sauté the chicken pieces dry in the skillet until they are cooked through and lightly browned. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.
3. Add the tomatoes, slow-roasted tomatoes (or tomato paste), salt, crushed pepper, and reserved cooking liquid to the skillet. Cook over over medium-high heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the chicken, orzo, and the basil leaves, leaving in the skillet just until the basil wilts, about 1 minute. Serve with a sprinkle of Parmesan.
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