Recipe: Chickpea and Orzo Stew (and my Sunday routine)

Our routine at Al Dente HQ is largely dictated by the children, who have a preference for waking up early. Today it was 6:07 a.m. when the toddler beckoned for her mother. I made it downstairs by 7:30 a.m. with my oldest on my heels.w

The Sunday routine usually starts with my fetching coffee for my wife and writing the grocery list, a Yeoman’s task for a household featuring a pretentious food snob (me), a child with Celiac disease, a toddler who will eat anything and my rather agreeable wife.

The COVID-19 pandemic (maybe you’ve heard of it?) has shifted priorities in a couple of ways. Grocery shortages have plagued stores to the point that 24-hour stores like Wegmans and Walmart have gone to reduced hours to restock and clean stores. The shelves are mostly stocked at open, but get there too late and you are shit out of luck.

We’re also now shopping for three additional people. My wife’s parents and aunt found themselves trapped in their Myrtle Beach condo, afraid to venture out. They cut their month’s stay short and flew home last week, just before city leaders kicked everyone out. They are self-quarantining as a cautionary step. The in-laws are also without a car, which had been driven down by one of my wife’s uncles. It’s sitting at my wife’s other uncle’s house in Surfside Beach.

With all of that in mind, I’m now shopping for two more households. It’s fine; I’m going anyways. It’s fun to see what people want to eat. I will silently judge you based on what you have in your cart as you walk by. It’s okay, you can judge me back.

Now, I get to judge when I take their lists and combine them with mine.

Frozen pizzas? Shame!

Almond milk? That stuff is awful.

And God forbid you buy store-brand crackers. It’s Nabisco or go home with my in-laws.

I made my list last night and left the house at 7:30 a.m. My Starbucks is closed, so I was at Wegmans by 7:35 a.m. and done in an hour.

Except I wasn’t. I came home, unpacked the groceries, packed the bags for the others, put our cold stuff away, realized I forgot things at the store, went back to the store, dropped the groceries off, realized I forgot more things at the store, went back to the store, came home and realized that the second trip to the store was unnecessary because those things were in the crisper already.

It’s been a day, which is why I wanted something easy. This chickpea and orzo stew from The Kitchn is all about your pantry. Or my pantry, as the case may be. I had chicken stock, canned tomatoes, and orzo on hand. All that was missing were the chickpeas, which were plentiful at Wegmans today. I had a couple of onions and plenty of garlic on hand, as well as the parmesan cheese.

WHAT WORKED: It’s so inexpensive and so filling. We each had two servings of this and ended up with two quarts of leftovers that are going to the aforementioned relatives. It’s also really versatile depending your dietary choices/needs. Parmesan cheese can be eliminated if you are dairy-free or vegan. That Basta chickpea orzo ought to work in this as well if you are gluten-free. You could probably just skip pasta altogether and use a long-grain glutinous rice (which, despite its name, is actually gluten-free). 

WHAT DIDN’T: This is based on a recipe from The Kitchn, one of my favorite sites and sources for recipes/inspiration. I usually don’t need to change anything in their stuff, but this needed way more than the quart of stock it recommended. I ended up using six cups, as the orzo just sucks up all of the liquid.

EASE OF PREPARATION: So easy. You really just pour a bunch of stuff in and let it simmer.

SERVE WITH: Plenty of grated parm on the side. And, if you’re stuck home with the kids, maybe some Bacardi 151. You probably need it by now.

Chickpea and Orzo Stew
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small cooking or yellow onion, diced
  • 1 lb. orzo pasta
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • kosher salt
  • black pepper
  • 6 cups (48 oz.) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 28 oz. can of whole tomatoes in juice
  • at least 28 oz. chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • thyme (1 1/2 tsp. dry, or three springs fresh) thyme
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves, chopped

Crush or puree your tomatoes. I used a immersion blender and pulsed it a few times. You could use a long knife and chop them in the can, or pour them in a bowl and crush them by hand.

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or similar pot with a cover until the oil shimmers. Add the onion and saute until softened, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the orzo and garlic, and saute until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.

Stir in five cups of stock, tomatoes and chickpeas. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent the orzo from sticking. Cook until the orzo is al dente, about 10 minutes or according to the instructions on the box.

Stir in the final cup of stock with the grated parm. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Fold in the chopped basil.

Based on this recipe from The Kitchn:

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