Make ‘risotto’ without the constant stirring

Linda Gassenheimer
Tribune News Service

This mock “risotto” takes only 10 minutes to make and doesn’t need constant stirring. Instead of using traditional rice for the risotto, I use orzo, a rice-shaped pasta, and a large nonstick skillet for this quick meal. The orzo has a creamy texture when cooked this way. Using a large, nonstick skillet instead of a saucepan increases the surface area so the orzo cooks faster and doesn’t stick. There’s no need for constant stirring as with a rice-based risotto.

While the risotto boils, the scallops are sauteed. Sweet, tender scallops need very little cooking. In fact, to remain delicate and flavorful, they should be cooked only a few minutes over high heat in a skillet large enough to hold them in one layer without touching. The result will be a crusty coating while the inside remains juicy.

Helpful hint: When buying scallops, ask for dry, not wet scallops. The wet ones have been treated with a solution that helps keep them moist. They will be difficult to sear and brown.

Countdown:

– Start orzo.

– Prepare remaining ingredients.

– Sautee scallops.

– Finish orzo.

Shopping List:

To buy: 3/4 pound fresh, large scallops, 1 box orzo, 1 small container crumbled blue cheese, 1 bottle cayenne pepper, 1 can no-salt-added chicken broth, 1 package washed, ready-to-eat spinach, 1 tomato and 1 piece Parmesan cheese.

Staples: canola oil, salt and black peppercorns.

Orzo replaces rice in a mock risotto that can be quickly prepared on a weeknight.

Seared Scallops

  • 3/4 pound fresh, large scallops
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pat scallops dry with a paper towel. Heat oil in a skillet over-high heat. When smoking, add scallops and sauté 2 minutes, turn scallops over and sear 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Yields 2 servings.

Per serving: 210 calories (35% from fat), 8.1 g fat (0.6 g saturated, 4.3 g monounsaturated), 54 mg cholesterol, 28.6 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, no fiber, 276 mg sodium.

Quick Spinach and Tomato ‘Risotto’

  • 11/2-cups no-salt-added chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup orzo
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Salt freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups washed, ready-to-eat baby spinach
  • 1 tomato cut into cubes (about 1 cup)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken broth and water. When liquid is boiling, add the orzo and blue cheese. Stir to bring back to a boil and cook 8 minutes. All liquid should be absorbed and orzo soft. Boil a little longer if needed. Remove from heat and stir in the cayenne pepper and salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the spinach and tomatoes. Stir until spinach starts to wilt. Divide between 2 dinner plates and sprinkle Parmesan cheese over both.

Yields 2 servings.

Per serving: 384 calories (28% from fat), 12 g fat (7 g saturated, 0.9 g monounsaturated), 30 mg cholesterol, 19.4 g protein, 49.9 g carbohydrates, 3.6 g fiber, 634 mg sodium.

— Recipes by Linda Gassenheimer