Orzo with Shiitake Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Spinach

While there are several ingredients and maybe even a few more steps, this recipe, with the blend of crunchy sesame seeds, chewy shitakes, bright spinach and silky toasted sesame oil is a perfect blend of texture and taste. It comes from Fine Cooking originally and then from a catering client who asked that I make this favored recipe.

In my typical fashion, I TRIED to follow the recipe start to finish and in the end decided that I’m still constitutionally incapable of doing so. I HAVE to make it my own somehow. And because it’s such a deep force within me, I must respect that voice that tells me to add a little here, change a little there – taste and then adjust.

I was laughing at myself when making this recipe. I have an internal rule about tasting and adjusting. If I taste a dish three times without making an adjustment, it’s called eating, not tasting. The first taste is clearly needed to judge any changes needed. The second, okay, sometimes you need to really ponder a subject. The third, no way, you’re done testing and now you’re eating. Time to walk away from the bowl and declare it finished. Definitely had to do that with this recipe.

Orzo with Shiitake Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Spinach Recipe by Annie Mahle

Orzo with Shiitakes, Caramelized Onions and Spinach

Note: Orzo is a pasta easily found in the pasta section of the grocery store that looks, when cooked, like fat rice.

3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
4 tablespoons peanut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
pinch crushed red chile flakes
6 oz. fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 large yellow onion, finely sliced
2 tablespoons dry sherry
freshly ground black pepper
10 oz. baby spinach, washed and drained
1 pound dried orzo
2 tablespoons minced chives,  (or scallions)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
juice of 1/2 lime, other 1/2 cut into wedges

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the orzo until tender.  Drain and transfer to large bowl.  Toss with toasted sesame, soy and rice vinegar.

Meanwhile heat a large wok over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of peanut oil.  Add the garlic and ginger, stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute and add the shiitakes and lightly salt them.  Stir fry for 2 to 3 minutes and add the spinach briefly to wilt.  Transfer to bowl with orzo.  Add another 2 tablespoons of peanut oil to the wok and add the onions.  Season with salt and pepper and stir fry until the onions are softly brown and caramelized, about 15 minutes.  Reduce heat if needed.  Add the sherry before removing from heat.

Combine with rest of ingredients and add chives, sesame seeds and lime juice.  Serve with extra lime wedges.  Can be served hot, room temperature or chilled.

Serves 8 to 10


© 2009 Anne Mahle

Catering for 30 People

Catering a celebration, in this case a graduation, is an honor.  Especially when it’s for someone known, loved and respected.  The gift of giving thoughtful, flavorful food and having that food appreciated by bright, laughter-filled conversation, blessed with live music and surrounded by stories and memories – that’s why I like cooking.  If I had no one for whom to cook, I would still enjoy the process and final result, but its made so much better when shared with a group of one or thirty.


The menu is below and I’ll be posting a few of the recipes as the week goes on.

White Bean and Green Olive Bruschetta with Parmesan
Crudite with both Ricotta, Fried Garlic and Basil Dip and Gorgonzola and Chive Dip
Herbed Goat Cheese
Lemon Rosemary Roasted Chicken
Poached Salmon with Tri-Pepper Salsa
Asparagus with Shallot Vinaigrette
Orzo with Shitake Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions and Spinach
Lentils with Toasted Cumin, Kale and Tomatoes
Sourdough Bread
Chocolate on Chocolate Cake made tasty by The Brown Bag
with Brown Butter and Vanilla OR Raspberry Ice Cream


This was the last catering job of the winter before heading to the usual summer gig of catering for 30 people everyday on the on the Riggin.  What a great way to cap off a good winter.


Thanks Iris and family!

© 2009 Anne Mahle