When produce is this good, it’s hard to really mess things up. Find a ripe tomato, find some summer corn, throw them together, how can that taste bad? I thought I’d experiment with this reckless-summer-cooking urge and hit up a local farm stand for inspiration. Red onion? Throw it in the mix! Intensely juicy cantaloupe? You only live once! Cooking in July and August is like taking candy from a baby—easy, foolproof, tempting, tasty… you get the picture. (Why does the baby have candy in the first place is what I want to know.)
So began my jumbled tomato/cantaloupe/corn smorgasbord, but with the protests of my carnivorous brothers echoing in my head, I decided it needed more substance. Shrimp, specifically shrimp with red pepper flakes, has always been a favorite of mine. Those little crustaceans are rich with protein and totally easy to cook. And with the addition of orzo, an entirely underused carb in my could-be-humbler opinion, the haphazard concoction was off to the races.
Back at the ol’ ranch (my studio), I put some seasoned water on to boil (roughly 4 cups with a ¼ teaspoon of salt). Cooking orzo is just like cooking pasta, so you don’t need to be exact with the orzo/water ratio. The shrimp were already peeled and deveined, so all I had to do was pinch off their tails.
I shucked the corn and cut the kernels off the cob. Summer corn is so sweet and juicy that, after tasting it raw, I decided it really didn’t need to be cooked. But if you find yours starchy or dry, try roasting the kernels on a tray, lightly salted and with olive oil, in a 350⁰ oven for 4-6 minutes.
I diced the cantaloupe, red onion, and tomatoes next, and zested the rind of one lemon. You can throw all that together in a mixing bowl. Eventually, the water came to a boil and I added the orzo. Leave the heat on high and boil, uncovered, for 6-8 minutes, until the orzo is al-dente or al-soggy, whichever your preference might be. Drain in a sieve.
I just got a cast iron skillet ($4 at Goodwill, where my boyfriend shops pretty much exclusively), and wanted to test it out with the shrimp. You can always use a frying pan, but I like the sear you get with cast iron. Get it smoking hot (open your apartment windows!), toss in a little olive oil to coat the pan, and place the shrimp one by one on the pan. You don’t want to crowd the pan, so do it in batches. While they’re sizzling, you can sqeeze a couple lemon wedges over top, and hit them with some red pepper flakes. Turn them over and cook the other side—they’re done when they’re slightly pink and curled up (it takes about 30 seconds to a minute).
When the shrimp were done and resting on a plate, I tossed a little white wine into the now-empty pan to deglaze any of those flavorful morsels stuck to the cast iron. Let the wine steam/boil while you scrap the pan with a spatula. Pour the liquid over the resting shrimp.
Phew! So you’re basically done—combine the shrimp, orzo, tomato, cantaloupe, red onion, and corn. Squeeze in 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, add ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes (or more if you’re feeling congested), sprinkle on ½ teaspoon of salt, and chop up some fresh parsley for good measure. Toss it up and commence dinner (lunch/snack/what-have-you).
- ½ cup orzo
- ½ lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- Splash of olive oil (for frying pan)
- ¼ cup white wine (for deglazing)
- 1 cup tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup cantaloupe, diced
- 1 cup corn, off the cob
- ¼ cup red onion, diced
- zest of one lemon
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice, plus extra for sprinkling
- ½ teaspoon of salt, plus extra for sprinkling
- ½ teaspoon of crushed red pepper, plus extra for sprinkling
- 2-3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Makes about 1 quart.