I thought I'd play around with faux "risotto" using orzo pasta tonight, and I'm pleased to report that the technique resulted in another really delicious and extremely quick-and-easy dish. If I keep experimenting with this technique, it may be a long time before I hunker over the stove for 25 minutes of stirring "real" risotto again.

I used a "cuisine minceur" technique of avoiding fat by using broth as a "sauteeing" medium rather than oil; I could have taken this dish down darn near to no-cal by using water instead of broth; instead, I elected to add a little richness by stirring in cheese at the end, feeling virtuous about that since I skipped the oil.

Here's how it went:

Cut up a broccoli "tree" (one will be enough for two people) into florets, peeling away the tough parts of the stem and cutting it into thin slices. Keep the stem slices separate from the florets. Slice 1 or 2 garlic cloves into paper-thin slices.

Pour about 2 tablespoons of chicken broth into a heavy saucepan and bring it to the boil. Use it to "sautee" the garlic slices until they soften, then add the sliced broccoli stems with salt and pepper to taste, stirring them in the simmering broth until they turn bright green. Add 2 1/2 cups chicken broth (or water, if you're watching calories or want a vegetarian version), and bring it to the boil. Stir in 1/2 to 2/3 cup orzo (preferred, or other soup pasta), and cook, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is al dente, about 15 minutes for the real Greek kind, which takes a long time to come around. About 7 minutes before the pasta is cooked, stir in the brocolli florets. You'll want to stir occasionally to keep the pasta from sticking, but this doesn't require nearly as much attention, or take as long, as arborio rice.

When the pasta's just done, take it off the heat and stir in about 1/4 cup of Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano or, my choice, a combination. Stir just until the cheese melts, and mangia!

With a quick-grilled T-bone (Florentine style -- covered with black pepper and cooked quickly in its own fat in a dry iron skillet with a couple of smashed garlic cloves), this filling and tasty dinner took less than 30 minutes to get on the table.

The steak was perfect with a young, tannic Languedoc red, and the orzo didn't complain about being washed down with the wine, either.