Monthly Archives: April 2014

Greek Lamb with Orzo

I’ve been slacking on the blog lately. No good excuse. Life happens, and sometimes the paying work has to come first. But never fear, I’m still around, and still cooking!  This recipe was just too good to keep to myself.

I had actually planned to make something else last night, but when I turned on my oven, the smoke and the smell and the burning happened. And the smoke detector went off and chaos ensued. And then I remembered. Scalloped potatoes happened on Easter. I made a delicious batch but filled the pan a tiny bit too much and it bubbled over and dripped everywhere, doing its best to adhere permanently to my oven. Did I feel like cleaning it right then? Of course not! I left it and promptly forgot it was there…until I tried to cook again.

So. Plan B. I had found this recipe on Food52 and was planning to make it later in the week. But it got moved up in the schedule since it can all be cooked on the stove top.

If you haven’t tried cooking with ground lamb, give this one a go. It’s easy to cook, with delicious, savory, wonderful flavor. And it’s got orzo! Who doesn’t love that? If you have olive and/or feta haters (who ARE those people?) among you, you can serve the olives and feta on the side if you prefer.

Greek Lamb & Orzo

Greek Lamb & Orzo

Greek Lamb with Orzo
(from Food52)

1 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
28 oz. can of whole tomatoes, drained and smooshed with your hands (fun!)
14 oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
1 pound orzo pasta
2 cups chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta

In a Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pan, heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the lamb and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a good grinding of black pepper. Cook, stirring to break it apart, until it is browned. Remove the lamb with a slotted spoon and drain all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Return the pot to the stove top and add the onion and garlic (still over medium-high). Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the spices (cinnamon, oregano, cumin, coriander, and red pepper) and cook until they start smelling extremely toasty and fragrant (1-2 minutes). Then, stir in the smooshed tomatoes.

Cook the smooshed tomatoes in the spices, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Then, add the can of diced tomatoes and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.

Add the cooked lamb back to the pot, give a good stir, then cover the pot and leave it to cook, stirring from time to time, for 20 minutes. At this point, stir in the fresh spinach and cook just a couple more minutes until the spinach is wilted. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste (keeping in mind you’ll be sprinkling just a touch of feta and olives on, which will add to the saltiness).

While the lamb and tomatoes are simmering together and marrying their flavors, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until al dente, about 7 or 8 minutes, usually. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.

Drain the orzo. Toss the orzo with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, and all of the parsley, adding a bit of pasta water at a time, if you feel it needs additional liquid.

The yummy orzo before it gets it's coating of lamb and other goodies.

The yummy orzo before it gets its coating of lamb and other goodies.

Spread the orzo out on a large serving platter or bowl. Spoon the lamb and sauce all over the top, then sprinkle with the feta and chopped olives.  Serves 4-6.

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Creamy Orzo Pilaf

I like rice pilaf.  It goes with anything. I’ve always thought “pilaf” was just a fancy way of saying rice with stuff in it to make it more interesting. Some rice pilaf (particularly the kind you get in a box) comes with not-rice that looks like rice, but it’s actually a noodle! And that lovely stuff is orzo. It is always my favorite part.  So I figured I would make my rice pilaf with orzo instead. And to get really decadent, I finished it with a little cream just to make it a little more saucy.  The result? A cross between pilaf and alfredo, with some fresh veggies and herbs thrown in for brightness.

I threw this together as a quick side dish the other night, but we all liked it so much, next time I’m going to add some grilled chicken or shrimp to it and call it dinner!

Creamy Orzo

Creamy Orzo Pilaf

Creamy Orzo Pilaf

1 cup dry orzo
1-2 tomatoes, diced
Small handful of basil, chopped
Small handful of fresh parsley, chopped
1 tbsp. olive oil
1/4-1/2 cup whipping cream
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmesan

Cook orzo according to package directions (usually 8-10 minutes, until tender). Drain well and add to a bowl with all other ingredients (start with 1/4 cup of cream and add more if you want it more saucy).  Mix well and serve hot or cold.

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Chili Roasted Pineapple Fries

Some recipes are barely recipes.  They are more about me needing something to go with something, and well, I have this pineapple…

This dish defies any predetermined meal placement.  I served this with a side of BBQ chicken, but it would be just as good with a scoop of ice cream for dessert, or alongside a couple of scrambled eggs for breakfast.

One of my favorite Mexican restaurants is this little place in my home town, run by a Mexican lady who is always singing.  Last time I ate there, she gave me a couple of little tins of spices that she’s planning to start selling. I scored ground cinnamon and this wonderful ground chipotle pepper.  I’ve been putting it on everything!  You may think peppers and pineapples don’t go together, but you’d be wrong!  The kick from the peppers and the sticky sweet touch of honey is the perfect combo.

Chili Roasted Pineapple

Chili Roasted Pineapple

Chili Roasted Pineapple Fries

Fresh Pineapple
Honey
Ground chipotle pepper (or any ground chili/red pepper powder)

Preheat oven to 400˚. Slice pineapple up into whatever shapes you like.  Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray. Lightly brush tops of pineapple with honey and sprinkle with ground chili pepper.

Cut into whatever shapes you like.  I prefer little stick shapes.  When I cook these on the grill, I do big sticks, the height of the whole pineapple.  Or you can do skewers of chunks if you prefer.

Cut into whatever shapes you like. I prefer little stick (french fry) shapes. 

Roast for 10-15 minutes, until just starting to turn brown. If you prefer grilling to roasting, these are perfect on the grill!

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Pizza Stuffed Peppers

I came across these giant red bell peppers the other day and they were so pretty (and so on sale!) that I just had to buy them.  And with so many spring colds going around, this seemed like the perfect way to get an extra dose of vitamin C. Did you know red bell peppers have more vitamin C than oranges?

Since the peppers were such a nice shape and good size, stuffing them seemed like the thing to do.  But stuff with what?  As it happens I had all the makings for homemade pizza, except crust.  You know, sometimes things just fall into place.  Obviously a pizza filled pepper was the solution to all my problems.

Now when you’re making a stuffed pepper, you’re faced with two choices:  lop off the top and stuff them whole, or cut them in half and make boats.  Since my peppers were so tall I opted for boats. This has the added benefit of being able to pick it up and eat it like pizza if you so desire (and if you’re willing to wait a bit for it to cool).

These were delicious.  I’m not anti-crust myself, but if you’re searching for a more healthy, low-carb or gluten-free solution to pizza, give this a try!  Feel free to vary the pizza toppings to your liking. I am not listing quantities because really it depends on how big your peppers are and how many you want to eat.

Pizza Stuffed Peppers

Pizza Stuffed Peppers

Pizza Stuffed Peppers

3-4 large red bell peppers (or any color)
Red or yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of basil, coarsely chopped
Mushrooms
Mozzarella
Pepperoni (optional)
Salt & pepper
Dry or fresh oregano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stuff peppers with veggies, pepperoni (if using) and cheese.  I went for random placement so I could have a bit of everything in each bite.  Don’t overfill or it will just melt everywhere.  Lightly sprinkle with salt & pepper & oregano.  Bake for 20 minutes or so, until cheese is melted and lightly browned on top.

Yum.  Pick it up to eat or slice it up and eat it with a fork.  Up to you.

Yum. Pick it up to eat or slice it up and eat it with a fork. Up to you.

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April’s Eggs Florentine

“Florentine” seems to be the vague describer of anything with spinach.  I never knew that spinach and Florence were that closely connected but that seems to be the case.  Is it the birth place of spinach?  Or just the first place they thought to put eggs and spinach together?  Who knows? All I know is that it’s a pretty yummy combo.

If you look up recipes for Eggs Florentine you will find a pretty wide variety.  Everybody has their own little spin. But usually, it’s some sort of riff off Eggs Benedict.  There is some sort of bread, spinach, poached eggs, and some sort of sauce – sometimes it’s hollandaise, some times Mornay, or something else.

I usually make this just for me, so cooking up a fancy sauce for one isn’t always practical. Instead, I usually mix together a quickie sauce that in actuality is closer to a salad dressing.  It’s a little lighter, and definitely quicker.  And if you don’t want to mess with it, honestly sometimes I just skip it altogether.

April's Eggs Florentine

April’s Eggs Florentine

April’s Eggs Florentine

1-2 pieces of sourdough bread (usually the sourdough I buy is giant so I just cut one piece in half)
1/2 tsp. vinegar (any kind)
2 eggs
1/2 cup baby spinach
1 tsp. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
Dash of dill
Dash of cayenne
1 tsp. lemon juice

In a small skillet, add a pinch of salt and vinegar to about an inch of water.  Bring to a boil.  Break eggs into the water and turn down to medium.  Cover. Stick the bread in the toaster.  When the toast pops up, the eggs should be done.  Scatter fresh spinach on top of toast and, using a slotted spoon or spatula, lift eggs, let water drain off, and place onto spinach.  In a small bowl mix mayo, dijon, dill, cayenne and lemon juice.  Drizzle over the top of eggs and serve.

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