Orzo with dried cherries and almonds becomes a wonderful side dish for any kind of meat or roast. And it contains a secret ingredient: saffron.
See what gives this lovely orzo dish its oomph:
grated orange zest, dried cranberries, slivered almonds and delicate saffron threads.
If you’ve never worked with saffron, fear not. First, a little briefing. Saffron is a by-product of the crocus plant. In the fall, harvesters hand-pick the stigmas from the plants. They dry the stigmas and turn them into the spice we know as “saffron.” According to my package, it takes almost 5,000 crocus flowers to produce one ounce of saffron. So, you buy it in small quantities. You use it in small quantities.
Many countries grow crocus flowers for saffron. Tuscany is known for its saffron crop. In 1999, there was a big push to revitalize the saffron industry in San Gimignano. In that area back in the 13th century, saffron was often used as currency. You can read about it here.
Cooking with saffron is very easy. Be sure to buy the threads over the powder as threads seem to work better. Here’s the best method for cooking with saffron: mix it with a little liquid. Saffron is red but when it’s cooked into a dish it turns yellow and adds a great distinct flavor and aroma to foods. And you only need a pinch.
Assembling Orzo with Dried Cranberries and Almonds
Boil 6 cups of water, add a generous amount of salt then add the orzo with the saffron. Cook the orzo according to package directions and drain. Use a microplane to grate your orange zest and add it to the orange juice in a medium-size bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and then whisk together until the mixture is emulsified. Carefully fold in the drained orzo
Add the cherries and almonds and gently stir. You can serve this dish hot or at room temperature. Serve it with any kind of meat dish. You will love it!
Orzo with Dried Cherries and Almonds
Yield: Serves 4 - 6
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
- 1 cup orzo
- 1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron
- 2 teaspoons grated orange zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/3 cup dried cherries
- 2 1/2 tablespoons slivered almonds
- Cook the orzo in 6 cups of boiling salted water with the saffron for 8 minutes
- Drain well and set aside
- In a bowl, stir together the orange zest and orange juice with salt to taste
- Add the olive oil in a stream and whisk together until emulsified
- Add the orzo and stir into the dressing
- Add the cherries and almonds
- Serve hot or at room temperature
Sounds delicious but you scared me with the “4-6 quarts” of water in the explanation! Was relieved when I got to the recipe and saw it was only 4-6 cups! Will try it tomorrow night. Thanks, Barb!
Yep. I made a boo-boo. It’s best to boil the orzo in 6 cups of water. Thanks for the heads up, Sylvana.