I just finished reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, and while I loved it, it's made me genuinely anxious about my dinner's origin. Before, I'd eat anything, up to and including California Condors. Now ... well, if you see a tall, dyspeptic white woman nibbling on a rock outside your apartment, just leave her alone. It's the only food she's fairly certain doesn't have a soul.
Due to this newfound neurosis AND an ever-diminishing budget, I'm attempting to cut as much meat as possible out of my diet for the coming year. In the olden days, this would have been difficult, as veggies didn't register on my radar, and one cannot live on pasta alone. Fortunately, times have changed. I like produce now, and I've amassed a few wise vegetarian friends that do some fairly impressive things to tubers, leafy greens, and such.
One of those people is my pal, Leigh. A 17-year veteran of vegetarianism, she's a killer cook, and pens a weekly recipe column for Cheap Healthy Good called Veggie Might. This past Thursday, her offering was Pumpkin Orzo with Sage. It looked delicious, so I tried it on my own the night she posted it, making a few pantry-friendly substitutions along the way (butter for vegan margarine, chicken for veggie stock, etc.). And - woof - I wasn't disappointed.
Leigh's food is usually dang good, but this is my favorite of her meals thus far. The combination of sage and pumpkin makes it savory, a little sweet, and excellent for a cold day. It has a risotto-like presentation, as well, only a bit creamier because of the purée. Speaking of which, since most of the moistness is coming from the pumpkin instead of the milk or butter, the dish is super, super light (about 315 calories and 7 grams of fat per serving). Best of all, I'm fairly sure no orzo is harmed in the making of the dish. So, I've got that going for me.
- 8 ounces orzo
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 3 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups pumpkin purée (or squash of your choice)
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 30 sage leaves, cut into ribbons
- 1 shallot, diced
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 20 grinds fresh black pepper
- 3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Note for the Pumpkin Purée: If you're starting with a fresh pumpkin or squash, slice in half (lengthwise for butternut and its ilk) and place cut side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Bake at 350°F (180°C) for 30 minutes or until tender. Allow to cool and scoop out with a spoon. Purée in a food processor until smooth.
In a large saucepan, bring 3 cups of broth and 3 cups of water to boil over high heat. Add orzo. Return to a boil and cook for 9 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, sauté shallots and sage in butter for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup of broth and 1/2 cup of milk. Allow to simmer for 5 minutes or so.
Add pumpkin purée to simmering broth and stir well. Add salt, pepper, and remaining 3/4 cup of broth. Reduce heat and simmer on medium-low for 10 to 12 minutes, or until sauce reaches desired consistency.
Stir in Parmesan cheese. Toss with orzo and serve hot.