“What’s your favorite food?” is a question that’s never been easy to answer for me. I mean, what course? In what season? Every day for the rest of my life? My “cheat” answer is usually noodles. Noodles come in all shapes and sizes in various forms all over the world, and can be topped an infinite number of ways. Potato noodles. Fried noodles. Noodle Soup. Stuffed noodles (ravioli! shells!). Heck, there are even rice-shaped noodles, aka orzo – not to be confused with rice noodles. In this recipe, crumbled goat cheese and chicken broth make a creamy, flavorful base for the orzo to cook in. Toasted pecans add nutty crunch. Generous handfuls of greens to round out the food groups.
Orzo has quickly become a go-to for how versatile it is to cook with. I especially love how it pairs well with different veggies, and really absorbs the flavor of the liquid you cook it in. I made this recipe multiple times with different variations to vouch for its adaptability, given the times we’re in.
Gone are the days of running to the store to grab that one missing ingredient for a recipe. No pecans? Sub walnuts, pine nuts, or just leave them out. No chicken broth? Try veggie stock or even water. Fresh garlic has been oddly difficult to find lately – so I’ve had to be flexible with pre-minced garlic, garlic powder, even dehydrated garlic. In addition to the jars of minced garlic, I now keep a tube of ginger and tomato paste in my fridge since both keep well. Anything to avoid another trip to the store! The herbs and spices in this recipe can totally be modified according to what’s in your spice cabinet.
Tip: you can chop and freeze a lot of fresh herbs (like basil, cilantro, green onions, garlic, chives) in plastic baggies. Left on the stem, hardier herbs like rosemary, dill, thyme, bay or sage can be spread in a single layer on a baking sheet or plate and placed in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer into any airtight container for freezer storage without clumping.
In testing this recipe over the past month or so, I snapped some quick iPhone photos and tried different baking dishes to see which worked best. Spoiler: they all tasted fine. While I intended to have consistent photos, I realized the beauty of its versatility and its reflection of how we are all making do with what we have. This might just be a recipe for chicken orzo with goat cheese and toasted pecans, but I hope it can also serve as a glimpse of my imperfect reality. In normal times, but especially now.
- 1.5 lb chicken tenderloins
- 2 oz goat cheese (crumbled)
- 1 1/2 T basil (or 1/2 cup fresh chopped)
- 40 g toasted pecans or walnuts (if you have raw, heat coconut oil in a pan and toast until toasted fragrant)
- 1/2 T thyme
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (more if you like a kick)
- 2 TB honey
- 1 C chicken broth
- 1/2 C orzo
- 2 cloves minced garlic (divided)
- 4 C spinash (fresh or frozen)