Thursday, August 28, 2008

Orzo with Garbanzo Beans, Herbs and Goat Cheese

Summer is almost over, but I'm a rebel at heart and I don't want to let go. Shhh... don't tell me that September is creeping up on us, no no. Not for me, the harsh reality. Let's just pretend it's still June and I will tell you about this awesome dish I made today. Really, I don't know what else to say but that you have to go and make it. Right now. Once you finish reading the recipe, that is. It's going onto my top easy dinners list, because I made it, I tasted it, and I just had to keep on tasting. Phew, it's a good thing the recipe yields a lot!

The thing that I love so much about this dish is that it lets each ingredient shine without overwhelming any of the others. It's like being at a party where all the people are beautiful (but not having to listen to inane conversation). The orzo is tender and firm, the garbanzo beans give it some crunch and flavor, the lemon zings, the herbs dance, the goat cheese provides some texture, and the olive oil -- you have to use a really good one for this -- is kind of like a tequila shot, in that it makes everyone happy. See, I told you it's like a party! It's a perfect side dish, with a mild flavor that isn't actually boring, and it's probably less time consuming than almost anything else I've ever made. Small on effort, big on the taste? That's my kind of cooking! Tasting it put me right back into the middle of summer, at a brunch by the pool, with some pita bread, grilled chicken and maybe a tequila shot or two (I'm very specific in my fantasies).

Orzo with Garbanzo Beans, Herbs and Goat Cheese
(adopted from Bon Appetit, June 2008)

*The original recipe called for oregano, but I love the fresh taste and smell of cilantro, so I threw that in instead, and I also chopped up some dill and added a little extra lemon juice. The great thing is that you can play around with whatevere you have on hand -- rosemary would be delicious also, and I could see this with chopped tomatoes and basil.

1 1/2 cups orzo (about 9 ounces)
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 15- to 15 1/2-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed, drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano (*note: I put 4 tablespoons of chopped cilantrol and 2 tablespoons of chopped dill)
1 5-ounce log soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup) (*note: I found this to be twice as much goat cheese as I really wanted, so add about half of that first and then add more if you're a goat cheese fan)

Cook orzo in large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, stirring occasionally. Drain orzo.

Whisk olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and minced garlic to blend in large serving bowl. Add drained garbanzo beans, cooked orzo, and chopped fresh herbs; toss salad to coat (make sure to get all the way to the bottom where the lemon juice likes to go). Season salad to taste with salt and pepper. Gently stir in crumbled goat cheese. Serve orzo salad warm or at room temperature. Yeah, that's it!

Continued after the jump...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


After months of anticipation, two lay-overs, turbulence, mix-up with our seats, and one hot French stuard on Air France who kept smiling at us beguilingly, my sister and I finally arrived in Munich. There was a clean, bright efficiency of things that we noticed straight away, the feeling that there was rule and order, the confidence that things would go as planned. Despite, or maybe because of that, it was a very relaxed city, with fountains, monuments, baroque churches, beautiful avenues alight with tulips, old buildings lovingly restored, their pastel facades glinting in the sun, and smiling, chattering crowds lounging in the parks, walking through the many museums, cycling or just relaxing in cafes with golden pints of beer.

We woke up early in the morning and wandered around the quiet, lilac scented streets, into museums with sleepy attendants, towards the Neoclassical plaza where Hitler once held demonstrations, and finally circled towards the stately imperial palace, gilded and imposing, and yet wearing its age with an air of such settled grace that it was a pleasure to admire it.

Early morning bikers called out greetings to one other and whizzed through the Imperial gardens, and the stone lions, the symbol of Munich, presided over the first buzz of conversations, the far-away clang of tables and chairs unfolding in cafes and the smells of freshly baked bread.

When in Rome, do like the Romans, and when in Munich, drink beer. We had it with lunch and with dinner, and in cafes and in beer gardens, and when we thought we couldn't drink any more and opted for morning coffee with strudel, we received looks full of condescending pity from the locals for our weakness. To give credit where credit is due, the beer in Munich was delicious. Addictive. Song-inducing, even. I shouldn't wonder if there are poems and odes to it, sketched lovingly on the long wooden tables at beer gardens and forgotten by the third pint. It was pure heaven for a lover of that magical brew. And by the way, the guy in the second picture below? That's 9:00 a.m. there. No wonder we got the "oh, foreigners" kind of looks for our paltry coffee and pathetic strudel!

It is a wonderful city, and our three days there hardly did it justice. I will remember the stateliness of the buildings and the friendliness of the people, the grand museums as well as the rooms of Kandinsky paintings in a little villa, the lilacs and tulips and convenient benches in shady avenues, the guys at the beer garden, urging us with friendly laughter to get a bigger mug, the guy at the market who made his own jams, the trains coming exactly on time, the cyclists riding down sunlit streets tinkling their signals, and most of all, the unexpected charm around every corner of this lovely Bavarian city.

Continued after the jump...