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Orzo with Feta, Basil and Shrimp

In Mediterranean cuisine, feta cheese is often paired with shrimp, the creamy, salty flavors marrying lusciously. Here, crumbled feta is added at the end of the cooking so it soaks up the warm juices from the sautéed shrimp. Instead of feta, you can try ricotta salata or a soft goat cheese. This dish makes a satisfying light meal or summer salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet Spanish paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more, to taste
  • 3 cups orzo
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, snipped into small pieces, plus 4 to 6 whole leaves
  • 1/4 lb. feta cheese, crumbled

Directions:

In a bowl, stir together the shrimp, the 1/4 cup olive oil, the paprika, red pepper flakes and the 1/2 tsp. salt. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo, stir well and cook until al dente (tender but firm to the bite), according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the 2 Tbs. olive oil. Drain the shrimp, discarding the marinade, and add the shrimp to the pan. Cook, turning once or twice, until the shrimp are opaque throughout, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the shrimp and any pan juices to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Drain the orzo and transfer to a warmed serving bowl. Add the shrimp and their juices and stir several times. Add the snipped basil and cheese and gently stir again once or twice. Garnish with the whole basil leaves and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Cheese, by Georgeanne Brennan (Weldon Owen, 2010).