Recipe: Chorizo Skewers With Spanish Orzo

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Every cook needs a few flavor bombs in his or her kitchen, ingredients that can take a dish from tasteless to tasty with minimal time and effort. 

Salt is the most basic flavor bomb, even more useful now with the availability of various flavored, smoked, and sea salts. Artisan olive oil and real balsamic vinegar (not the caramel and sugar-tweaked stuff) are others. Garlic, smoked paprika, truffle paste, and fresh herbs from the garden are staples of my kitchen.  

And one more: chorizo.

Not the raw Mexican kind, which is more like Italian sausage with cojones, but the cured Spanish chorizo -- small, thin, porky links with a salami-like texture, zapped with pimenton and garlic.

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Just a few slices can add a hauntingly smoky, dusky flavor to everything from omelets and potatoes to stews, soups, and sautés. Even better, they're dirt cheap -- two stubby links go for around $3 -- are easy to find at local markets, require only reheating (since they're already cured) and, until opened, don't need to be refrigerated. (All of which also make them an excellent addition to your hurricane food stash.) 

One of the simplest ways to enjoy chorizo's lusty charms is to skewer slices with chunks of marinated chicken and grill, letting the molten pork fat and pimenton do their flavor thing. This recipe is about as easy to make as it is to eat, though not so easy to stop eating.

Grilled Chicken and Chorizo Skewers with Spanish Orzo
For skewers: 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in one-inch cubes
2 small chorizo links, sliced quarter-inch thick
2 garlic cloves, grated on microplaner or minced
1 T. fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Juice of one lemon and a bit of lemon zest
1/3 C. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste 

For orzo: ½ C. uncooked orzo
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 T. tomato paste
½ small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Handful of kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 zucchini cut in quarter-inch dice or handful of peas or veg of choice
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste 

At least six hours in advance or overnight, combine garlic, rosemary, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, and salt and pepper in plastic bag, add chicken cubes and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Soak skewers (if using wood) in water to keep them from burning. 

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil for a few minutes, add tomato paste and veg, and sauté a couple of minutes more until the paste caramelizes. Add chopped tomatoes, salt, and pepper and simmer until it achieves sauce-like consistency. Add olives. 

Cook orzo in boiling water until just al dente. Add to tomato mixture and reserve. Skewer chicken and chorizo in alternating pieces. Discard marinade. 

Grill or broil chicken over medium-high heat until lightly charred and cooked through. Reheat orzo, giving it a few vigorous stirs. Plate it all up and serve. Serves two.

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