Creamy Vegetable Stew with Orzo
Updated: Dec 6, 2022
This was the first week at a new job. One morning, while I was in the shower, my husband got the coffee ready for me. Espresso loaded into the handle, milk in the foamer, and a message written on blue tape stuck to the coffee machine LET'S FUCKING GO.
My Christmas wish is for everyone to have their own cheerleader in the house.
This recipe was invented on one of those clean-the-fridge nights. I recalled a recipe for a Persian barley stew made with a creamy bechamel and Middle Eastern spices. It occured to me that turmeric and cumin, which I use in tomato-based dishes and other types of stews could be wonderful in a cream sauce. I had left over orzo and cauliflower and beans in the fridge that had seen better days but would still taste good roasted. The result was a hearty winter stew that was a solid meal when tofu was added.
I recently learned the technique of freezing tofu from Lucas Sin, who recently demonstrated a deceptively simple tofu dish that I have probably screwed up four or five times by now, one way or another. I cannot seem to get it right. But I did learn his trick of freezing tofu first. Freezing tofu was apparently common in the north of China, where tofu was traditionally stored frozen over the winter. By freezing the tofu, the water in it turns to ice and expands. When the tofu is thawed, the melting ice leaves space where it had expanded in the tofu. The resulting porous structure gives the tofu a somewhat 'meatier' texture.
Ingredients: half a cauliflower head, chopped into florets
2 cups of green beans
1 block extra firm tofu frozen, then thawed
1 leek, finely chopped
half medium onion, diced
6 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered
neutral vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp flour
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup of orzo
1/2 cup of heavy cream
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Wrap tofu in a dishtowel and press under an iron skillet or other heavy pot (a tofu press is a good thing to have if you eat a lot of tofu!)
Slice block of tofu in half lengthways and cut each piece into six even pieces
Add two or three tablespoons of vegtable oil in a skillet and fry tofu until golden all over. (You can see that frozen and then thawed tofu has a chewier texture and crisps up nicely without breaking in the pan.)
Remove tofu from skillet and set aside.
Toss cauliflower and beans with vegetable oil, salt, and pepper, and scatter on a sheet pan lined with non stick foil. Roast in the oven until brown and crispy, about 20 minutes.
In the meantime, heat 2 tbps of oil in the skillet, and add onion, leek, and mushrooms. Salt and cook until onions and leek are transluscent and mushrooms start to brown.
Add cumin, turmeric, thyme and flour. Add a few grindings of pepper to taste, and stir.
Add broth and deglaze the pan. Add orzo and stir until fully mixed into the broth.
Add back tofu. Cover and cook for 5-10 minutes, until orzo is cooked. You may want to add more water if there is not enough broth- it should be somewhat soupy.
Stir in cream and roasted vegetables. Garnish with parsley.
I would think this recipe could be adapted to other vegetables you may have wilting in your crisper, and would be delicious with chicken, or without any protein at all.
It's December, we have 27 hours a day of darkness. We all need some velvety warm stew. LFG.