I love late summer. It’s not deathly hot outside and the air is comfortable and breezy. I love how the sun sits low in the sky and gives everything a golden, rosy glow. Everything seems much more precious because soon autumn will set in and the nights will soon require sweaters and then jackets. But right now? Everything is perfect.
With the slightly cooler evenings that this late summer provides, I think it’s time to bake up a quick little meal that is as fresh as it is hearty. It’s chock full of vegetables from our CSA: beet greens along with their candy cane stems, garlic, onion, sun gold tomatoes, and summer squash (of course). These get sautéed on the stovetop along with a little sweet red pepper and herbs.
Orzo gets tossed alongside grated strong cheddar, and a bit of tomato sauce and milk to keep things moist. And then the best part…
A cracker or breadcrumb topping, of course! I dig the crunchiness and the comfort it provides. Though if you do decide to smush your own crackers like I did, grind ’em up fine or you’ll end up with something more rustic. A finer crumb would have worked better, I think. Add on some more grated cheese and then pop it in the oven to get everything melted and golden like the evening sun.
There you go, a splendid late summer meal. Enjoy!
elsewhere: Over at Poppytalk I bake up a deliciously moist spiced zucchini bread. You’ll need this recipe handy if your squash drawer is anything like mine. Also, I just started writing for the Huffington Post and you can read my first post about homemade maraschino cherries!
late summer vegetable & orzo bake
While this is a rustic dish, try to keep your vegetable dice small to match the orzo as it makes for better bites.
1 c orzo
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, diced
1/2 zucchini or summer squash, diced
6 beet leaves + stems, sliced thinly (chard, kale or spinach can be subbed here)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 t dried basil
1/2 t dried oregano
1/4 t dried red chili flakes
1/2 t kosher salt
1/4 c milk
3/4 c tomato sauce
3/4 c grated cheddar cheese + 1/4 c for topping
1 t olive oil
1/4 t dried oregano
1/4 c finely crushed crackers or breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 400F.
Prepare orzo according to package directions.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a medium sized oven-safe pot over medium heat and add in the onion and garlic, sautéing until translucent. Add in the zucchini, tomatoes, red pepper, and beet stems and greens along with the herbs, salt and chili flakes. Stir until tender-crisp, about 5-8 minutes.
Drain orzo when al dente and return to the pot. Add in the vegetables, along with the milk and the spaghetti sauce. Add in the cheddar cheese and stir until well combined.
In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil and add in the oregano and the crushed crackers or breadcrumbs, stirring until well mixed & slightly fragrant. Top the dish with the crumbs and the reserved cheese and bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the top is golden and melty. Remove from oven. Serves 6.