I think side dishes get short shrift. The very name highlights their peripheral place at the dinner table, as an accompaniment to a more important dish – usually meat, seafood, or fowl. And all too frequently they lack imagination and depth: steamed veggies, mashed potatoes, or a box of rice pilaf seasoned with a lot of salt. So the other night, with a simple “main dish” of wine-poached haddock, I knew I wanted a “side dish” that would take center stage. Enter my recent Trader Joe’s find Italian truffle cheese.
I can spend hours pouring over the cheese section in a grocery store, but at least at Trader Joe’s I can walk away with more than one delicious selection of creamy fabulousness. So when I saw a truffle cheese for under $8 I snatched it up. It was delicious with an apple and warm bread, but its addition to a basic pasta and spinach combination brought everything to a new level. To top it off, the leftovers make a great light lunch later in the work week.
Creamy Truffled Orzo
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
extra virgin olive oil
1 6 oz bag Trader Joe’s Power to the Greens, roughly chopped*
2 carrots, shredded or julienned
salt and pepper
2 cups orzo pasta
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 cup shredded Italian Truffle cheese*
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1) Add 1-2 tablespoons olive oil to a large sauce pan and heat until shimmering. Add shallots, garlic, and carrots; saute for 1 minute. Add chopped greens and toss with garlic and shallots. Cook for about 8 minutes.
2) Add broth to pan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and stir in orzo. Salt and pepper to taste. Continue to simmer until most of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally to keep the bottom of the pot from burning.
3) At this point, add the shredded cheese in 2 parts, stirring well to incorporate.
4) When all of the liquid is fully absorbed, remove from heat and stir in sprinkle with diced bell pepper.
I love the T.J.’s Power to the Greens bagged mix – it includes chopped kale, chard, and spinach and is an awesome powerhouse of delicious veggies. But if you don’t have access to a Trader Joe’s, 6 oz of any dark leafy green would work just as well.
The “truffled” part of this recipe comes from Italian truffle cheese, also from Trader Joe’s. You may be able to find a similar product in the fine cheese section of your grocery store, but if you can’t you can use a traditional hard Italian cheese like Parmesan or Asiago. If you happen to have truffle oil, drizzling a little bit into the orzo when you add the broth will allow you to keep the truffle flavor.