How did something so stinky and moldy and veiny as a chunk of blue cheese end up being such a prized ingredient?
And I really want to know: who was the first person who thought it would be a great idea to put something so stinky and moldy and veiny in their mouth? I mean … seriously.
Regardless, whoever that brave soul was, and whatever his motives, I’m grateful, because then there wouldn’t be any such thing as an autumn dish with orzo pasta and fresh butternut squash and leeks and dark, leafy greens, bound together with a blue cheese sauce.
And that would be a crime against taste buds everywhere. Because blue cheese and its moldy veins totally rock the autumn skillet party.
Now, to be precise, it’s not so much a blue cheese sauce. Rather, the Cambozola Black Label blue cheese that I discovered at my local cheese shop earlier this summer — which is more like a creamy, blue-cheesy brie with rich undertones than a crumbly gorgonzola … I lovelovelove it — gets all melty and silky when it’s added to the hot dish, and becomes this barely-there essence that pulls the whole dish together with a savory flavor boost that only a really good blue cheese can add.
So … [taking deep breath from that run-on sentence] … if you’re worried that your peeps will bolt at the sight of veiny blue things in their orzo and butternut squash skillet dish, don’t, because the cheese pretty much disappears amongst the orzo, and no one will be the wiser, except for wondering why humble ingredients like orzo and butternut squash and kale taste so freakin’ amazing.
If you don’t have a nice, perky butternut squash on hand, no worries: you can easily substitute an acorn or kabocha squash, or even a sweet potato. It’s all lovely here.
It’s dishes like this that makes me glad I stocked up on local winter squashes before the farmers’ market season ends, although once I do run through my stash, I won’t hesitate to buy fresh frozen butternut squash from the grocery to get me through the rest of the winter. Good stuff, that fancy freezing technology.
This autumn orzo and butternut squash skillet is so pretty on the table!
One last cook’s note: you don’t have use to pistachios, if you don’t want to — although I completely recommend them — but I would add almonds or maybe even pine nuts for a nice, surprising crunch.
- 1 cup vegetable stock, plus a little water
- 1 cup orzo pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
- 1 medium leek, sliced thinly (white and light green parts only)
- 2 1/2 cups diced butternut squash (12 oz frozen package or 1 small fresh)
- 1 cup chopped kale, spinach or Swiss chard
- 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (a soft cheese, like Cambozola Black Label, is nice), plus extra for garnish
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped pistachios (optional, but adds a nice crunch)
- Set the vegetable stock to boil in a small sauce pan. Add the orzo pasta, then top off with about 1/2 cup hot water (bring back to a boil if adding these ingredients cooled it down). Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cook for about 9 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking. Drain, if necessary (it might not be - we're using a shallow pool of liquid).
- While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the leeks and squash. Saute until the squash starts to turn slightly golden with light browning on the edges. Add the kale, and stir into the squash mixture until the kale turns a nice forest green. Sprinkle the blue cheese over the vegetables, and give it a quick stir. Spoon in the cooked pasta and mix well.
- Just before serving, top with the parsley, pistachios, and extra crumbled blue cheese.
Inspired by The Kitchn