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Kitchen MacGyver: Turkey, Spinach and Leek Orzo

My husband loves orzo—whenever I announce that I’m making orzo for dinner, he perks up. This is a reaction that’s more significant if you know him because he doesn’t tend to get excited very often about food unless pizza, Ess-a-bagels or craft beer is on the menu. If you were to observe our uninhibited, list-free grocery shopping styles, you’d notice that my husband tends to select crusty ciabattas, smoked or oozy cheeses and fun, sugary cereal, whereas I gravitate toward fresh produce, whole wheat everything and hormone-free dairy and poultry. This isn’t to say that my husband doesn’t eat, enjoy and appreciate what I cook, but every now and again an “I used to buy only white spaghetti when I was single” slips out of his mouth. Orzo is one of our compromises. I try not to make it too often because I still enjoy the enthusiasm my husband exhibits when I serve it and he eats second and often third helpings. We had a good laugh last night over what I created compared to what he would have made as a white pasta-loving single man: boiled orzo seasoned with garlic salt and spray butter.

Turkey, Spinach and Leek Orzo

canola oil cooking spray

6 ounces lean ground turkey

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 leek, rinsed thoroughly, white and light green parts chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 shallot, diced

2 cups orzo, boiled in 1/2 water, 1/2 chicken (or veggie) stock mixture according to package directions (9-10 minutes)

1 green bell pepper, seeds and stem removed and diced into small cubes

5 cups baby spinach, rinsed (or 1 box frozen spinach defrosted with warm water in a colander. Press out as much water as possible with paper towels)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

1/4 teaspoon dried French thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 cup fruity white wine (I used Ponte Angry Wife White; it’s currently out of stock according to the winery, but the tasting notes can provide inspiration)

1 tablespoon vegan buttery spread (I used Earth Balance with olive oil)

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

5 leaves fresh basil, torn (if desired)

Parmesan cheese, for serving (if desired)

Cook orzo according to package directions, boiling in a mixture of 1/2 water and 1/2 chicken or vegetable stock. Stir frequently while cooking to ensure that orzo doesn’t stick to the bottom of pot. When the orzo absorbs all of the liquid and is cooked, stir in 1 tablespoon vegan buttery spread and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized skillet over medium-high heat sprayed with canola cooking spray, brown ground turkey, breaking up the meat into small chunks. When the meat is browned, put a lid over the skillet, drain the water and return to heat. Season lightly with a dash of salt and pepper and stir. Add cooked turkey to pot with orzo and stir to combine.

In the same skillet, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks, shallot and garlic and saute for about three minutes. Add green bell peppers and cook for another three minutes, stirring frequently. Add spinach in batches until each batch wilts and makes room in the pan for the next. Season with remaining salt and pepper, dried herbs and Worcestershire sauce. Add wine and cook until wine is absorbed.

In a large serving bowl, dump orzo and turkey mixture into the bottom and top with the hot vegetables and toasted pine nuts. Stir to combine. If desired, top with fresh torn basil and Parmesan cheese.