This whole dish came together in about 30 minutes and uses very pandemic-friendly pantry and frozen ingredients.
Seafood Orzo with Lemon, Dill & Olives
- 2 small to medium zucchini, cut into half-moon slices
- 1 shallot, sliced
- 4 scallions, whites and greens chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1/3 cup Kalamata olives
- 12 oz orzo
- 3-4 oz crumbled feta
- juice and zest of one lemon
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoon refrigerated dill paste look for a tube in the produce department near fresh herbs
- 1 lb frozen "seafood mix" I used a mix of raw shrimp, bay scallops, squid and mussels
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to boil. Cook the orzo according to package instructions until almost al dente (around 9-10 minutes) and drain.
- Meanwhile, saute the shallot, scallions, garlic, and olives until the shallot is translucent. Add in the orzo, feta, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt/pepper and saute until the orzo is well coated.
- Add the STILL FROZEN seafood mix and dill, cover, stirring occasionally until the raw seafood is is fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
- For best results, use a seafood mix that has raw ingredients in it, don't use a mix that is all fully cooked seafood.
- Don't defrost the seafood! We are using it straight from the freezer for this recipe.
Since the coronavirus, I’ve really stepped up my efforts to shop less frequently, shop smarter, and reduce waste. I already was pretty good at the food waste part and I’m an excellent shopper but shopping less frequently can be challenging. I posted some tips here but it’s still tricky. The biggest change food-wise for me is not going out to eat or getting takeout. I know takeout is considered “safer” but I don’t really feel comfortable putting the workers in danger just because I don’t feel like cooking. It also seems like a hassle to pick up the food, worry about other people waiting, worry about the staff, come home, and then have to decant everything into serving bowls or plates anyway. It’s a huge failure of our government that they aren’t making it easy for businesses to stay closed and keep their employees safe. But I digress! We are doing most of our grocery shopping in person, once every 3-4 weeks, we get the same produce delivery we’ve gotten for 6 or 7 years now during the growing season (and it’s finally starting to be more than lettuce and onions) and have made a few orders of shelf-stable staples.
Making every meal we’ve eaten for the last 75+ days and for what will surely be many months to come is tiring but it is an opportunity to try some new things! I’ve been trying to get into using more frozen seafood in my meals. So far there haven’t been any supply issues for it and even Aldi sells a ton of reasonably priced, wild-caught, sustainable fish. One thing you might not know is that unless you live near water (and even if you do and are shopping at say, Safeway instead of a local market) most seafood sold at seafood counters in the US is previously frozen anyway. Now you are just defrosting it (or not! I cook my tuna steaks and this mix from frozen) yourself.
I impulse bought this mix at Aldi last month and didn’t have any idea in mind. I googled recipes for it and didn’t find anything good. Frozen mixed seafood is gross! It’s rubbery! It’s flavorless. This was disappointing to see! I mean, I thought it might be a mixed bag (ha!) but the reviews were pretty much universally negative. I was undeterred because I don’t want to waste food and I knew my bag had a mix of what seemed to be par-cooked seafood (the mussels) and raw (the rest of it) which make a big difference. I also knew that no matter what the bag says, you can cook small pieces of seafood (like shrimp or tuna steaks that you want a little rare inside) from frozen just fine. So that’s what I did.
I basically made the whole dish then dumped in the blob of frozen seafood, covered it, and cooked it for around 5 minutes until the shrimp, scallops, and squid were all just cooked through. No rubbery seafood here! It was great! The seafood still had a ton of flavor, the texture was perfect and it was so easy! I’m never going to buy a 1/4 pound of 4 types of seafood to make a weekday (night) pasta dish so why not use frozen? Even the mussels were pretty good. Would I buy frozen mussels to recreate the bucket of mussels I had on the streets of Belgium? No. Were they tasty and fresh-tasting in this dish? Yes. The trick is not to overcook them.
Other pandemic friendly things I did in this dish were to use dill paste instead of fresh dill. Dill does not keep very long and I find that by the time fresh herbs get to me in my produce box (and some greens) even though it is local, they really need to be used that day if possible. The tube is basically dill in some olive oil and a dash of citric acid to keep it fresh looking (and tasting). Dried pasta like orzo of course lasts years, jarred olives are a staple, and lemons can last a month or more on the counter. Feta is another long-lasting cheese that adds a lot of flavor even in small quantities.