Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weeknight dinner.

So the school year is officially underway. If you have school-aged children you realize this means the hours from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm are an absolute blur of homework, carpooling to and from activities, and the inevitable rush to get dinner on the table.

Of course, I have from 7:30 am until 3:00 pm to prepare for this mad dash. 

In theory that is plenty of time to exercise, do the laundry, make the beds, clean the kitchen, pay the bills, walk the dogs, coordinate home repairs, plan and shop for the meals, organize school parties for two classrooms, chair the school's silent auction, volunteer in the classroom, manage our travel schedule, volunteer for various community organizations, participate in a bible study, maintain my little blog and, if time permits, end world hunger. 

Plenty of time. 

I always get a laugh when my law school friends and legal colleagues {who stayed with their careers} ask what I do all day. I like to respond with a glib: "Shop on the internet, exercise and nap." 

They don't think I'm kidding. 

I wish I weren't. 

I am not complaining, but suffice to say: It can be quite hectic getting a decent meal on the table. And for those who also have to manage a career and the demands of a job, well, I have no idea how they find time to sleep, much less, eat. 

Which is the point:  weeknight dinners must be quick and easy. 

For everyone.  

This is the newest addition to my arsenal:  

Orzo with Sausage and Roasted Peppers.  


1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 pound orzo pasta*
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces (2 links) mild Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup ricotta salata cheese {feta also works}, crumbled

image and recipe via FoodNetwork.com

Using tongs, place the bell peppers over a gas flame. Cook, turning occasionally, until the skins are charred on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes. {Alternatively - and more efficiently in my opinion - place the peppers on a baking sheet and broil for 5 to 8 minutes, until charred.} Place the charred peppers in a medium bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the peppers to steam for 20 minutes. Under running water, peel away the charred skin from the peppers. Pat the peppers dry with paper towels. Remove the stem and seeds from the peppers and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Set aside.
{Amy note: Knock this out early in the day so you aren't stuck at 6:30 waiting 20 minutes for your peppers to steam. Or, do do a slew of peppers on Sunday and repurpose them in meals throughout the week.}
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock, water, and kosher salt to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the turkey sausage and saute until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the sausage mixture, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss well to combine all ingredients, adding reserved cooking liquid, if needed, to loosen the pasta. Top with the ricotta salata and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Serve.
* If you cook a full pound of orzo the ratio of orzo to sausage and peppers will be nothing like that pictured. A pound of cooked orzo is a mound of orzo. If you want more veggies and less pasta, adjust accordingly. Next time I will likely use 1/2 pound of orzo and double up on the peppers. My kids, however, appreciated that it was pasta heavy!  

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